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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 November 2006, 23:54 GMT
Iraq rape soldier jailed for life
Room where alleged rape and killing took place

A US soldier who raped a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and helped to kill her family has been sentenced to life in prison with possible parole.

Specialist James Barker was one of four serving soldiers charged over the killings in the Iraqi town of Mahmudiya, which happened in March.

He pleaded guilty and agreed to help prosecutors in an effort to avoid the death penalty.

He could serve up to 90 years in prison, the presiding judge said.

"This court sentences you to be confined for the length of your natural life, with the eligibility of parole," Lt Col Richard Anderson said.

He is expected to be eligible for parole in 20 years.

They can smile at you, then shoot you in your face without even thinking about it
Specialist James Barker

Specialist Barker was among four soldiers accused of the rape of the girl and the murder of her family.

The three others - Sgt Paul Cortez, Private Jesse Spielman and Private Bryan Howard - are facing court-martial proceedings.

A fifth man, former soldier Stephen Green, has been charged in a civilian court in Kentucky with murder and sexual assault. He has denied the charges.

'I hated Iraqis'

Before the judgement was handed down on Thursday, James Barker told the court that Mr Green had come up with the plan for the rape and killings.

"He brought it up to me and asked me what I thought about it," Barker said.

"By the time we started changing clothes, it was more or less a non-verbal agreement that we were going to go along with what we were discussing."

He also confessed that he "hated Iraqis", telling the judge: "They can smile at you, then shoot you in your face without even thinking about it."

But he added that Iraq had made him "angry and mean" yet that he regretted his actions, telling the court he did not set out to kill or deliberately harm people in Iraq.

"I want the people of Iraq to know that I did not go there to do the terrible things that I did. I do not ask anyone to forgive me today."

Military prosecutors did not comment after the judgement was passed because the three other soldiers still face courts-martial.

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