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Iraqi Relatives Urge Death For U.S. Rape Soldier

BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- Relatives of an Iraqi girl who was raped and killed along with her family by a U.S. soldier have urged that he be given the death penalty.

Private 1st Class Steven Green was convicted in a Kentucky court on May 7 of raping Abir Qasim Hamza al-Janabi, 14, and killing her and her family near Baghdad in 2006. He faces a possible death sentence.

Green, 24, was tried in federal court as a civilian on murder, rape, and obstruction of justice charges since he was arrested after he was discharged from the U.S. Army later in 2006 for a "personality disorder."

"By all measures, this was a very criminal act. We are just waiting for the court to sentence him so he gets justice and the court can change the image of Americans," said Karim Janabi, the girl's uncle.

The trial featured prosecution testimony by Green's former comrades in which they detailed the assault, one of several incidents involving U.S. soldiers that enraged Iraqis.

"So they decided this criminal was guilty, but we don't expect he'll be executed. Only if he's executed, will it mean American courts are just," said relative Yusuf Muhammad Janabi.

Green, 19 at the time of the crime, was described as the trigger-man in the group of five men, who donned black "ninja" outfits and raped Abir Qasim Hamza al-Janabi and shot dead her and her father, mother, and 6-year-old sister.

Green, from Midland, Texas, was described by prosecutors as predisposed to killing Iraqis.

The guilty verdict could go some way towards repairing the strained U.S.-Iraq relations that the crimes caused.

But relative Sawsen Najim al-Janabi said the courts took too long to convict him.

"They should have decided he was guilty in the beginning because it's obviously a total crime."

Public anger surrounding cases in which U.S. soldiers have been accused of killing Iraqi civilians has been seen as one reason why Iraqi officials bargained hard for U.S. soldiers to be subject to Iraqi law for crimes committed while off-duty, under a bilateral security pact that took effect in January.

In a separate case, six out of eight Marines charged with the killing of 24 Iraqi civilians at Hadithah in 2005 have had their charges dismissed by military judges and another was cleared, to the chagrin of Iraqis who feel justice failed them. The accused ring leader in that case still faces court martial.