US soldier on trial in Italy for Iraq killing(Reuters)
17 April 2007ROME - A US soldier went on trial in absentia in Italy on Tuesday accused of killing an Italian intelligence agent in Iraq, but his lawyer said his client would reject the courtâ€™s jurisdiction.
After preliminary motions, the trial was adjourned until May 14 for procedural reasons.
Mario Lozano, from the US Army National Guard in New York, denies wrongdoing in firing at Nicola Calipariâ€™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. He is being tried in absentia because Washington has ruled out handing him over and his lawyer, Alberto Biffani, indicated his client could formally reject the Italian courtâ€™s authority. â€œOf course, Mr. Lozano will reject that this court has jurisdiction in this case,â€ Biffani told reporters. The US and Italian governments said the shooting was an accident, but an Italian judge charged Lozano with murder and two counts of attempted murder of those in the car. His trial began in a courtroom inside Romeâ€™s maximum security prison, Rebibbia, the largest in the Italian capital. Seven empty cages flank the left side of the courtroom, normally used to hold high-security defendants. â€œItâ€™s worse for him if he does not come,â€ said Franco Coppi, the lawyer representing Calipariâ€™s widow Rosa, who has filed for damages. The prosecution reacted with open disdain when Biffani claimed that his client had no formal knowledge of the case against him, especially following Lozanoâ€™s recent interviews with US media in which he defended his actions. â€This is a statement that we consider an insult to our intelligence,â€ Coppi said. Anger
The freed hostage, reporter Giuliana Sgrena, said the trial showed US troops would be held accountable for their actions. She was wounded in the shooting and is suing for damages. â€œWe have demonstrated we can break this immunity that normally American soldiers have guaranteed all over the world,â€ Sgrena told Reuters television. Lozano angered Sgrena and Calipariâ€™s widow last week by defending the shooting in interviews with US media. Italian outlets accused him of showing no remorse, but Lozano appeared teary eyed when speaking on television. â€œIf you hesitate, you come home in a box -- and I didnâ€™t want to come home in a box. I did what any soldier would do in my position,â€ he was quoted as saying by the New York Post. The trial is one the biggest cases involving US personnel in Italy since a low-flying US 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 US-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 Dâ€™Alema has said the two cases had â€created some turbulence in our relationsâ€ but that Washington had more responsibility than Rome did to set things right. Â