American soldiers took turns raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, and one of them put a bullet through her head after killing her parents and 5-year-old sister, an Army investigator testified Monday.
The attack followed a session of whiskey drinking and card-playing during which five soldiers plotted the March 12 assault, criminal investigator Benjamin Bierce said.
He cited details from a sworn statement by Spc. James P. Barker in which the soldier told how he and his comrades practiced hitting golf balls before heading to the Iraqi teen’s home 250 yards from their post at a traffic checkpoint.
After the slayings, the soldiers returned to their post, where Barker grilled chicken wings, Bierce testified.
The testimony came on the second day of a hearing to determine whether the soldiers should stand trial in the rape-slaying of Abeer Qassim al-Janabi and the killing of her father, Qassim Hamza, her mother, Fikhriya Taha, and her sister, Hadeel Qassim Hamza, in the town of Mahmoudiya.
The rape and killings are among the worst in a series of cases of alleged misconduct by U.S. service members that have tarnished the American military.
Barker is accused along with Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman and Pfc. Bryan L. Howard of rape and murder. Another soldier, Sgt. Anthony W. Yribe, is accused of failing to report the attack but is not alleged to have been a direct participant.
Former Pfc. Steven D. Green was discharged from the Army for a “personality disorder” after the slayings and was arrested in North Carolina in June on rape and murder charges. He has pleaded not guilty in federal court and is being held without bond.
In his June 30 statement, Barker described playing cards and drinking Iraqi whiskey mixed with an energy drink as the defendants plotted the attack.
Bierce said Barker’s statement made it clear that Green was persistent about wanting to kill some Iraqis and kept bringing up the idea. At some point, they decided to go to the house of Abeer, whom they had seen passing their checkpoint.
Barker said the soldiers found the girl and her father outside their home. Spielman grabbed the girl while Green seized her father and took them into the house, Barker’s statement said, and Cortez and Barker followed them inside.
Green led the father, mother and younger sister into the bedroom and closed the door, while the teenage girl remained in the living room with the others, Barker’s statement said.
‘They‘re all dead’
Cortez pushed the girl to the floor, lifted her dress and tore off her underwear while she struggled, Bierce said, citing Barker’s statement. Cortez appeared to rape her, then Barker tried to rape the girl, according to the statement.
Suddenly, the group heard gunshots, and Green came out of the bedroom holding an AK-47 rifle and declared: ’“They’re all dead. I just killed them,“’ according to the statement.
Green then raped the girl while Cortez held her down, Barker’s statement said. Green picked up the AK-47 and shot the girl once, paused, then shot her several more times, Bierce said, quoting Barker’s statement.
Barker said he poured fuel from a kerosene lamp on the girl’s body but did not say who set it on fire. The soldier’s statement did not say whether Howard or Spielman participated in the rape, Bierce said.
Another investigator, Gary Griesmyer, quoted Cortez as telling him that the teenage girl was weeping and speaking in Arabic and that Barker told her to “shut up.”
‘Nothing I’ve read’
Also Monday, another soldier, Pfc. Justin Watt, testified that Howard told him before the incident that Green, Cortez and Barker had planned to rape a girl, and Howard was to be the lookout.
“There’s nothing I’ve read that says what to do if your buddies have raped and murdered a family,” Watt said.
Another investigator, Michael Hood, told the hearing he interviewed Spielman, who denied shooting or having sex with anyone in the house. Spielman was given a lie-detector test and passed, Hood said.
Since the case became public last month, U.S. officials have said they were concerned it could strain relations with Iraq’s new government if Iraqis perceive that the soldiers receive lenient treatment.
They have offered assurances the case will be pursued vigorously and that the soldiers will be punished if convicted.
The case already has increased demands for changes in an agreement that exempts U.S. soldiers from prosecution in Iraqi courts, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has demanded an independent investigation.