Judicial sources said on Friday relatives of Telecinco cameraman Jose Couso asked the court in May to investigate his death and put three US soldiers on trial.

Their lawyer said the attack was a war crime and Spanish law allows for suspected war criminals to be tried in Spain wherever the alleged crime had been committed.

The 37-year-old cameraman was killed on 8 April when a US tank fired at a hotel serving as the main Baghdad base for international journalists covering the war.

A Pentagon report has absolved the US soldiers, who said they thought a spotter was directing enemy fire from the building.

'Small victory'

"It's the first time that something like this has happened in Spain," said the family's lawyer Pilar Hermoso. "No judge has ever agreed to investigate a war crimes case against soldiers before."

In Spain, cases are presented to investigating magistrates who then decide whether they should be taken up or not.

"It is a small victory," said the cameraman's brother David Couso. "These small victories...comfort us."

Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk, 35, was killed in the same attack and Reuters conducted its own investigation into the incident.

High Court Judge Guillermo Ruiz Polanco has called three journalists to testify as witnesses on 23 October, the judicial sources said.