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Discharged U.S. Soldier Pleads Not Guilty to Murder, Rape of Iraqi Civilian

July 7, 2006 at 6:35 PM EDT
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JEFFREY BROWN: In a federal court in Kentucky yesterday, former Army Private Steven Green pleaded not guilty to murder and rape charges stemming from an incident in the Iraqi town of Mahmoudiya in March.

Correspondent David Cloud has been covering the story for The New York Times and joins us now.

David, first, tell us what is alleged to have happened on March 12.

DAVID CLOUD, The New York Times: On March 12, Private Green and three other soldiers allegedly entered a house nearby a checkpoint that they were manning and raped a woman who was inside the house, and killed her and her family, three other members of her family, her parents and a young sister, before attempting to cover up the crime, and going back to their checkpoint.

JEFFREY BROWN: Is there any known reason at this point for why the attack on this particular family?

DAVID CLOUD: There is no known reason, none given. The only implication is that there had been some — allegedly, some premeditation of this. It had been discussed, allegedly, the day before by Mr. Green with another soldier, who is unidentified.

It appeared to be near — the house appeared to be near the checkpoint and all one can guess is that it was essentially a target of opportunity.

JEFFREY BROWN: Now, the case against Steven Green is being brought by federal prosecutors in civilian court, not in the military courts. That’s because he’s no longer in the military?

DAVID CLOUD: That’s correct.

He was discharged in May, after being sent home from Iraq for what we are told is a personality disorder. We’re told that this move by the Army had nothing to do, at the time, with the incident in Mahmoudiya. In fact, they didn’t even know that Mr. Green was involved, allegedly, but that he had been found, after a psychiatric evaluation, to have this personality problem, and was discharged honorably from the military.

JEFFREY BROWN: Do we know what that means, a personality disorder?

DAVID CLOUD: We don’t know, in his specific case, what behavior led to this.

We — under the regulations, it is anything, a range of potential behaviors that’s sort of described as behavior incompatible with military service.

Finding the truth

JEFFREY BROWN: Now, what is going on now in Iraq, in terms of further investigation, and the possibility of other soldiers still on duty being charged?

DAVID CLOUD: Right.

There is an ongoing investigation by Army criminal investigators into the incident. Three soldiers, we're told, have been confined to base and their weapons taken away in Iraq for potential involvement in this case. But none have been charged. None has been charged so far.

JEFFREY BROWN: Does it look as though other participants or eyewitnesses came forward? Is that how this came about?

DAVID CLOUD: It does.

By coincidence, these soldiers were in the same unit as three other American soldiers who were ambushed and killed. And in counseling sessions after that incident, one soldier came forward and admitted, or at least talked about this incident at the checkpoint, the rape and murders. So, that's how it came to light.

And in the civilian court documents that have been made public so far, there's discussion of how that came out and of other soldiers who were unnamed describing the incident in considerable detail.

Charging those responsible

JEFFREY BROWN: Now, yesterday, the two top American officials there in Iraq, General Casey and Ambassador Khalilzad, issued an unusual apology. This has clearly caused a major furor in Iraq, I gather.

DAVID CLOUD: It has.

It obviously comes at a time of a number of incidents in which American soldiers have been accused of and are being investigated for killing unarmed Iraqis. This one is particularly explosive, in part because it involves rape, an awful allegation anywhere, but particularly so in the Arab world, where there are sort of questions of family honor, etcetera.

And, so, yes, yesterday, senior commanders and the ambassador, Khalilzad, did apologize to the prime minister, to the Iraqi people. And, at the same time, Prime Minister Maliki said that the investigation the matter would be investigated by Iraqi authorities, although how that would be carried out is a little bit unclear, since the American soldiers are not subject to Iraqi law.

JEFFREY BROWN: And what happens next for Steven Green in this country?

DAVID CLOUD: Mr. Green is now in detention in Kentucky, which is where the headquarters of the 101st Airborne, his former unit, is.

He is facing likely indictment next month, we're told, by prosecutors, for the murders and rapes. He is identified in the court documents as the trigger-puller in the murders, at least according to the other unnamed soldiers who were there, as well as one of the two soldiers out of the four who participated in the rape.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right, David Cloud of The New York Times, thanks very much.

DAVID CLOUD: My pleasure.