MAHMUDIYA, Iraq - Relatives of an Iraqi girl who was raped and killed along with her family by a U.S. soldier urged that he be given the death penalty on Friday.
Private 1st Class Steven Green was convicted in a Kentucky court on Thursday of raping Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, 14, and killing her and her family in Mahmudiya, 30 km (20 miles) south of Baghdad, in 2006. He faces a possible death sentence.
Green, 24, was tried in federal court as a civilian for 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 American 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 Mohammed 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 Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, 14, 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.
Public anger over 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.
"When American troops came to Iraq, we thought they came to protect Iraqi people, then we saw acts like this," said Juwad Qadim Hussein, 40, a resident of Mahmudiya.
"Some American troops help Iraqis, giving them medicine and aid; but clearly, others don't respect and kill Iraqi people."
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," she said.
In a separate case, six out of eight Marines charged with the killing of 24 Iraqi civilians at Haditha 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.
(Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Samia Nakhoul)