US officer cleared of Iraq abuse

A US military jury has found a navy commando innocent of allegations he allowed an Iraqi prisoner to be severely beaten just hours before his death in CIA custody.

    Dozens of US soliders have faced inquiries into their conduct

    The charge against Lieutenant Andrew Ledford stemmed

     from a 2003 incident in which members of his SEAL special forces platoon beat suspected Iraqi fighter Manadel al-Jamadi.

    During a brief stop at an army base, members of Ledford's
    SEAL platoon testified that they punched, kicked and struck
    al-Jamadi with muzzles of their rifles.

    Instead of ordering his men to halt the beating, Ledford accepted a subordinate's offer to "give this turd a knock" and punched the bound prisoner in the arm, Navy prosecutor Lieutenant Chad Olcott said.

    No witness who appeared during the four-day court martial
    testified that they saw Ledford strike al-Jamadi. The only
    evidence of the punch came in Ledford's own sworn statement last year to Navy criminal investigators.

    On the witness stand on Thursday, however, Ledford denied punching the detainee.

    After the beating, Al-Jamadi was handed to the CIA at baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison, but died in custody almost immediately.

    Ledford would have faced more than 11 years in prison had he been convicted at the court-martial on charges of assault, conduct unbecoming an officer, making false statements and dereliction of duty.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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