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Iraqis respond with dismay to ex-GI's sentence

Steven Green was sentenced to life without parole by a U.S. federal jury for his role in the rape of an Iraqi teenager and the killing of her and family members in 2006. Iraqis say it's too lenient.

May 23, 2009|Raheem Salman

MAHMOUDIYA, IRAQ — Iraqis responded with dismay and outrage Friday to the decision by a federal jury in Kentucky to spare the life of a U.S. soldier convicted of raping and killing an Iraqi girl three years ago near this dusty town south of Baghdad.

Steven Dale Green, 24, of Midland, Texas, was sentenced to life without parole Thursday for the rape and murder of 14-year-old Abeer Kassem Hamza Janabi, and for killing her parents and 6-year-old sister at their home March 12, 2006.

"This sentence is unjust, and we in our tribe feel displeasure, dissatisfaction and disappointment indeed," said Mahdi Obaid Janabi, 56, an elder of the Janabi tribe, to which the family belonged.

He said tribal leaders planned to demand that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki put pressure on the U.S. government to somehow impose the death penalty on Green, who was tried by a civilian court in Paducah because he had been discharged from the Army by the time charges were brought.

"The government must move. . . . They must claim back the honor of the family," he said.

As much as any of the abuses known to have been committed by U.S. troops in Iraq, this crime has resonated in the national consciousness for its brutality and callousness.

Federal prosecutors said Green and other assailants went to the house, held the girl down, took turns raping her, shot the family and then set fire to the house in an attempt to cover up the incident. Four other soldiers have been given prison sentences of between five and 110 years.

As the ringleader of the group, Green "deserved worse than the death penalty," said Iyad Shaibani, 49, an engineer from Mahmoudiya. "If an Iraqi had committed a similar crime in the United States, the punishment would have been harsher and no excuses would have been accepted."

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Salman is a Times staff writer.

Times staff writer Liz Sly in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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