Lethal US practice revealed in trial

A US soldier accused of beating an Afghan civilian to death in 2002 should not be held solely responsible because authority figures used the same tactics, his attorney says.

    Brand's lawyer says knee-strikes are commonly used on detainees

    Private First Class Willie Brand of the 377th Military Police Company is charged with involuntary manslaughter, maiming, assault, maltreatment and false swearing.


    The Cincinnati man is accused of killing an Afghan civilian identified only as Dilawar at the main US detention facility in Bagram, Afghanistan, by destroying his leg muscle tissue with repeated knee strikes.


    On Monday, the opening day of Brand's Article 32 hearing, attorney John Galligan said Brand's superiors either directly knew or should have known about the use of the knee-strike method of beating.

    Knee-strikes common

    He said records and testimony would show that others in positions of authority also used the practice.


    "Unfortunately, we have many soldiers deployed to a war zone with inadequate training, equipment and resources to conduct very dangerous missions in a new type of war"

    Brand's lawyer John Galligan

    "Unfortunately, we have many soldiers deployed to a war zone with inadequate training, equipment and resources to conduct very dangerous missions in a new type of war," Galligan said.

    The hearing, which is being held at Fort Bliss because it is considered a neutral location, will determine whether the case is referred for a general court martial. It is expected to last two to three days.


    "I thought it went reasonably well, like a dental appointment," Brand told the El Paso Times after Monday's hearing ended.


    Beaten to death


    Brand is accused of beating Dilawar to death over a five-day period at Bagram Control Point just north of Kabul.

    An autopsy showed that Dilawar's legs were so damaged by blows that amputation would have been necessary if he had survived.


    Dilawar died from "blunt force trauma to the lower extremities complicating coronary artery disease", according to a US Army report dated 6 July 2004.


    "I thought [Monday's hearing] went reasonably well, like a dental appointment"

    Private First Class Willie Brand,
    377th Military Police Company

    Galligan said the knee-strike technique is a "non-lethal mechanism utilised to ensure compliance with a combative detainee".


    "We would argue that [the knee strikes] had been legitimately done in the course of restraining an individual," he said.


    Assault and maltreatment

    The charges against Brand include assault and maltreatment of another prisoner, Mullah Habib Allah.

    Habib Allah also died, but Brand is not charged in connection with his death.


    Another member of the Cincinnati-based 377th Company, Sergeant James Boland, has been charged with assault, maltreatment and dereliction of duty in Dilawar's death, and dereliction of duty in Habib Allah's death.

    The army on Monday said in a statement that it is investigating whether other soldiers also were involved.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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