Wednesday, April 6, 2011


It was in August of last year when I first wrote in the Morning Star about José Couso, the Telecinco news cameraman, who was killed on April 8 2003 when he was hit and fatally wounded by a shell from a US Mark 1 Abrams tank fired at the Hotel Palestine in Bagdad.

The US has constantly refused to send the three military members implicated in the case to Spain to face trial. Last week a startling new submission was made to the Spanish High Court which suggests the tank crew had lied to their superiors.

Since Couso’s death his family have tried to have the tank crew tried by the Spanish courts. Various judges have opened proceedings only for the cases to be shelved. In December El País revealed the Wiki Leaks papers which suggested the US Government had pressured its counterpart in Madrid and in turn the Spanish judicial authorities not to proceed with the investigation. Both governments deny any such conspiracy. The Couso family demanded an enquiry.

In July 2010 High Court Judge Santiago Pedraz opened a new investigation and the three US Army officers were charged with a crime against the international community along with homicide and are now the subjects of find and capture warrants. It is no surprise the US authorities have refused to co-operate with bringing about their detention.

Last Wednesday lawyers acting for the Couso family presented before a judge at the High Court a report produced by two Doctors of Physical Science who are also leading professors at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid.

They had travelled to the Hotel Palestine in Bagdad to inspect the site of the tragedy. Their six page report concludes that the US tank that fired at the building killing José Couso and his Ukrainian colleague Taras Protsyuk had a clear view of the terrace on which he was filming. If true it goes against the version of events given by the tank crew who told their superiors they had fired after they saw a flash of light from Couso’s room.

The six-page report was requested by the lawyer acting for Couso’s family. The tests were carried out on photographs taken during the visit to Bagdad by a judicial commission headed by High Court judge Santiago Pedraz on January 28.

The digital images were taken from the exact spot from where the M1 Abrams tank fired on the Al-Jumhuriya Bridge towards the hotel where the shell exploded. The professors used calculations and optics to obtain a simulation of what could be seen from the visor at the top of the tank. Their calculations took in to account various factors such as the distance between the hotel and the tank (1.7 kilometres), the angle of firing (79.5 degrees), the height of the 14 th floor of the hotel where the terrace on which Couso was filming stands, the angle of the vision system of the tanks turret (6.5 degrees) and the maximum vision of the M1 Abrams tank.

The tests are said to have faithfully reproduced the vision from the bridge and the hotel terrace. According to judicial sources this evidence would suggest that the three soldiers, without any reasonable doubt, had perfectly clear vision of the terrace and the windows of the room from which Couso was filming when he was hit by the shell.

The person who ordered the tank to fire was Lieutenant Colonel Philip de Camp the head of the armoured division who transmitted the order to Captain Philip Wolford to fire the shell and Sergeant Thomas Gibson who made up the tank’s crew. It is also alleged they knew the hotel was in a civilian zone and was occupied by journalists indeed Reuters, Al Jazeera and Abu Dhabi TV had their offices there. Hence to fire at the building was almost certain to result in the death of civilians or journalists.

The report requested by the Couso family runs parallel to another being produced for Judge Pedraz. Again using material gathered during his January visit a group of experts in the Comunidad de Madrid are also working with the photographs and videos on their own report.

This Friday there will be a demonstration outside the US Embassy in Madrid at 20.00 in support José Couso. It marks the 8 th anniversary of the day he was killed by the US tank. Present will be his mother, family members, his lawyer, a witness to his death and other supporters. Their aim is simple – to have the US Government hand over the tank crew to stand trial.

When reopening the case last year Judge Pedraz expressed the hope that the Obama administration in Washington would be more co-operative than its Bush predecessor in wanting to establish the true facts surrounding Couso’s death. Sadly it would appear the USA believes only its citizens have a right to justice and certainly not a Spanish news cameraman or his family.

(The above article will appear in The Morning Star in the coming days)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.