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4 SEALs charged in abuse of Iraqi
by Eric Schmitt
WASHINGTON- Four Navy SEAL commandos have been charged with assaulting and mistreating an Iraqi detainee who later died during questioning at Abu Ghraib prison last November, and then lying about it, the Navy said Friday.
It is the first time Special Operations Forces have faced criminal charges in connection with the prisoner-abuse scandal.
The charges against the four SEALs, who were not identified but included at least one lieutenant, include assault, maltreatment of detainees and giving false statements to investigators, according to a Navy statement.
Cmdr. Jeffrey Bender, a spokesman for the Naval Special Warfare Command in San Diego, said more SEALs probably would be charged "in the near future" as part of a widening inquiry into alleged abuses in Iraq between October 2003 and April 2004.
In a second case, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service is looking into possible abuse by the Navy SEALs against an Iraqi detainee in April, a Navy official said. That detainee also died later while in allied custody.
Military officials said it was highly unusual to charge Special Operations Forces, reputed to be highly trained and disciplined, with offences commited on the battlefeild. Investigators have reported that one of the SEALs who was charged, struck the captured Iraqi detainee with a rifle butt after the prisoner resisted arrest.
The body of the Iraqi detainee, pictured wrapped in plastic and packed in ice, became one of the most infamous and enduring images to emerge during the prisoner-abuse case.
The incident also drew attention because the detainee was being questioned by the Central Intelligence Agency at Abu Ghraib, but was deliberately kept off the prison roster.
Army officials sail this week about two dozen soldiers are expected to face abuse-related charges in the deaths of two Afganistan detainees at an American-run detention center in Afganistan in December 2002.
In addition, and Army report relased last week recommended disciplinary action against 41 military police, military intelligence soldiers, civilian contractors and Army medics in connection with abuses at Abu Ghraib.
The Senate and House Armed Services Committees have scheduled daylong hearings Thursday to hear testimony from panels that issued their reports last week into the prisoner-abuse scandal. Separately, a group of retired admirals and generals is calling for an independent commission into U.S. detention and interrogation procedures.
The Navy charges announced Friday focus on the handling of a man, identified by American authorities only as Jamadi, who was captured in Iraq by theSEALs last Nov. 4, after he was suspected of being involved in an attack against the International Committee for the Red Cross.
When the man resisted arrest, one of the SEALs "butt-strked" him in the head with his rifle, according to the report by three Army generals released last week.
The SEALs, who were part of a secretive Special Operations Forces/Central Intelligence Agency task force that operated in Iraq, then took Jamadi to a CIA base camp, a Navy official said Friday. CIA representatives then brought the hooded prisoner to Abu Ghraib, but did not register him with the prison authorities, the Army report found. The prisoner was placed in a shower stall, attendedby two CIA officials.
About 45 minutes later, a soldier was summoned to the shower where Jamadi, face down, hooded with a sandbag and handcuffed with his hands behind his back, was determined to be dead. The body was packed in ice, photographed and removed the next day on a litter to make it appaer as if the prisoner was only ill, the Army report concluded.
While the Army report, conducted by Maj. Gen. George Fay, underscored that many details of the death are still not known and are under investigation, an autopsy conducted later concluded the prisoner had "died of a blood clot in the head, likely as a result of injuries he sustained during apprehension."