Tuesday, April 17, 2007

[wvns] US Soldier Killed Italian Agent

U.S. soldier on trial in Italy for Iraq killing
By Phil Stewart

ROME (Reuters) - A U.S. soldier went on trial in Rome on Tuesday
accused of killing an Italian intelligence agent in Iraq but was being
prosecuted in absentia because Washington has ruled out handing him over.

Mario Lozano, from the U.S. Army National Guard in New York, denies
wrongdoing in firing at Nicola Calipari's car when the agent was
escorting a newly freed hostage to Baghdad airport in 2005. He says
the driver ignored warnings to slow down or stop.

The U.S. and Italian governments said the shooting was an accident,
but an Italian judge charged Lozano with voluntary homicide and two
counts of attempted murder of others in the car.

His trial began in a courtroom inside Rome's maximum security prison,
Rebibbia, the largest in the Italian capital. Seven empty cages
flanked the left side of the courtroom, normally used to hold
high-security defendants.

"It's worse for him if he does not come," said Franco Coppi, the
lawyer representing Calipari's widow Rosa, who has filed for damages.

Before the trial started, Lozano's lawyer, Alberto Biffani declined
when asked by a reporter to say whether he was hired by Lozano himself
or by the U.S. embassy.

The freed hostage, reporter Giuliana Sgrena, has said the trial showed
U.S. troops would be held accountable for their actions. She was
wounded in the gunfire and is suing for damages.

"We have demonstrated we can break this immunity that normally
American soldiers have guaranteed all over the world," Sgrena told
Reuters television.


Lozano angered Sgrena and Calipari's widow last week by defending the
shooting in interviews with U.S. media. Italian outlets accused him of
showing no remorse, but Lozano appeared teary eyed when speaking on

"If you hesitate, you come home in a box -- and I didn't want to come
home in a box. I did what any soldier would do in my position," he was
quoted as saying by the New York Post.

Rosa Calipari, elected to the Senate last year, criticised him for
talking to the media instead of Italian magistrates.

"There's a trial. He should come and make his statements at the
trial," she told Reuters.

The trial is one the biggest cases involving U.S. personnel in Italy
since a low-flying U.S. Marines plane cut an Italian ski lift cable,
killing 20 people in 1998. The United States later cleared the pilot
of manslaughter.

The other major case testing U.S.-Italian relations is set to begin on
June 8. Then, a Milan court will try in absentia 26 Americans, mostly
CIA agents, charged with kidnapping a Muslim terrorist suspect in
Milan in 2003 and flying him to Egypt.

He says he was tortured by Egyptian authorities.

Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema has said the two cases had "created
some turbulence in our relations" but that Washington had more
responsibility than Rome did to set things right.

(Additional reporting by Antonio Denti in Rome)



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