An Italian judge has indicted an American soldier for the shooting of an Italian intelligence agent in Baghdad in 2005. The soldier will be tried for voluntary murder. He is expected to be tried in absentia. Sabina Castelfranco reports for VOA from Rome.
Mario Lozano of the U.S. Army's 69th Infantry Regiment is being charged with the fatal shooting of an Italian intelligence agent at a checkpoint in Baghdad in March 2005. A judge in Rome Wednesday ordered that Lozano be tried for voluntary murder.
The agent who was killed, Nicola Calipari, had just secured the release of kidnapped journalist Giuliana Sgrena. The agent and the journalist were being driven to Baghdad airport when the U.S. soldier opened fire and fatally wounded the agent. The journalist was wounded.
Reacting to the news of the ruling, Sgrena said this was the outcome she had hoped for.
She said this was the outcome she wanted but until a decision was taken it was uncertain. She expressed satisfaction because the judge agreed the Mario Lozano should be tried for voluntary murder.
Lozano is expected to be tried in absentia, when the trial opens on April 17. He is believed to be from New York but his whereabouts are unknown. Sgrena said his failure to appear will not stop the trial.
Sgrena said the fact that the trial will go ahead is positive because it takes away the impunity of American soldiers. She said she is not looking for a scapegoat, adding that Lozano's defense lawyer made clear the U.S. soldier had followed orders. She added that a request has been made for the Pentagon to answer for the incident.
The widow of the intelligence officer was also in the court for the judge's ruling. She said that the decision appeared to be a first step on a long road toward truth and justice.
Lozano's Italian defense lawyer said the judge's decision surprised him because the soldier had been carrying out his duty. Prosecutors so far have not sought the soldier's arrest. If convicted, Lozano could be sentenced to life in prison.
The case has strained U.S.-Italian relations. The United States and Italy drew different conclusions in reports on the incident. U.S. authorities said the vehicle was traveling fast, alarming soldiers, who feared an insurgent attack.
Italian officials said the car was traveling at normal speed and accused the U.S. military of failing to signal there was a checkpoint.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Wednesday the U.S. government considers the matter closed, following a U.S. investigation with Italian government participation in 2005. Whitman said it is a "fair assumption" that the U.S. military will not make the soldier available for trial in Italy. Whitman said the U.S. investigation was "very thorough," that all information was made available to the Italian government and that the U.S. Defense Department and the Italian Ministry of Defense consider this a "closed matter."