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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Soldiers on Trial in Iraq

BAGHDAD -- Unidentified Iraqi witnesses testified behind closed doors Sunday at a U.S. military court to determine whether five U.S. soldiers should be court-martialed in the alleged rape and slaying of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl.

Three of the girl's relatives were also killed in the town of Mahmoudiya on March 12 in an incident in which U.S. troops were alleged to have killed and abused Iraqi civilians.

The hearing began Sunday with testimony by unidentified Iraqi witnesses. The media and the public were barred from covering the Iraqis' testimony after an appeal by the trial counsel to protect the witnesses, who could be at risk if they were seen as collaborating with the Americans.

The soldiers -- Sergeant Paul Cortez, Specialist James Barker, Private First Class Jesse Spielman and Private First Class Bryan Howard -- are charged with conspiring to rape the girl along with former Private First Class Steven Green, who was arrested in North Carolina in June.

Green has pleaded not guilty in federal court and is being held without bond.

A fifth soldier from the same unit, Sergeant Anthony Yribe, is charged with failing to report the attack but is not alleged to have been a direct participant.