Lieutenants face Abu Ghraib hearings

Allegations that two navy special forces lieutenants abused prisoners in Iraq will be heard this week at a California naval base, the navy says.

    Iraqis protest against the torture outside Abu Ghraib

    Article 32 hearings, the military equivalent of a civilian grand jury, are set for Tuesday and Thursday for the unnamed officers with a Coronado-based Sea, Air, Land unit known as Seal Team 7. 

    Both hearings at Naval Base San Diego were delayed for weeks, in part because of concerns about classified information available to defence attorneys involved in the case. 

    A Seal lieutenant scheduled to appear on Tuesday is accused of punching Manadil al-Jamadi and allowing personnel under his command to abuse the prisoner, according to a charge sheet released by the navy. 

    Al-Jamadi, a suspect in the bombing of a Red Cross facility, was captured by Seals in November 2003 during a joint special forces-CIA mission and died a short time later at Abu Ghraib prison. 

    Formal objection

    Frank Spinner, a civilian defence attorney, said on Monday he was filing a formal objection to the proceeding because he cannot attend and the navy has refused to grant a delay.

    Spinner said he has been summoned for jury duty in Colorado, where he lives. 

    Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the accused Seal is entitled to civilian defence counsel. "If they proceed without me, a judge in several months may order them to go back and do another Article 32 hearing," Spinner said. 

    On Thursday, another lieutenant will face allegations that he kicked, choked and twisted prisoners' genitals in Iraq in incidents from October 2003 to April 2004, according to his charge sheet.

    "It was not smart to have pictures of prisoners"

    One of the accused lieutenants

    He is also accused of putting a pumpkin mask on a prisoner's face in November 2003 and taking pictures. 

    His civilian attorney, Eugene Fidell, declined to comment last week. The charges against the two lieutenants include dereliction of duty, maltreatment, assault and conduct unbecoming of an officer. 

    Posing in photos

    Both men are accused of posing in photos in which al-Jamadi was allegedly humiliated.

    In April last year, one of the lieutenants allegedly told members of his platoon "it was not smart to have pictures of prisoners", according to the charge sheet. 

    Navy lawyers will hear the evidence against both Seals and make a recommendation to Rear Admiral Joseph Maguire, the top Seal.

    Maguire will make a final decision on whether to convene a court martial. 

    Eight other unnamed members of Seal Team 7 also face criminal charges following an investigation into allegations of detainee abuse. 

    Six Seals have received non-judicial punishment at captain's mast proceedings. Two others are facing special courts martial, the civilian equivalent of a misdemeanour trial.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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