Four soldiers charged in iraqi generals murder
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Four U.S. Soldiers Charged in Iraqi General's Murder
Mon Oct 4, 2004 04:55 PM ET
By Will Dunham
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military has charged four soldiers with murder in the death of an Iraqi general who suffocated after being shoved in a sleeping bag and physically abused during interrogation in Iraq last November, the Army said on Monday.
Chief Warrant Officers Jefferson Williams and Lewis Welshofer Jr., Sgt. 1st Class William Sommer and Spec. Jerry Loper were charged with murder and dereliction of duty, officials at Fort Carson, Colorado, said in a statement.
Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abid Hamed Mowhoush, a key air-defense commander for toppled President Saddam Hussein's military, died last Nov. 26 of "asphyxia due to smothering and chest compression" while being detained by the U.S. military in Al Qaim near the Syrian border, according to a death certificate released by the Army in May.
The criminal charges were the latest in a series brought against U.S. troops stemming from the abuse and in some cases deaths of numerous prisoners held in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The murder charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole, while the dereliction charge carries a maximum sentence of six months of confinement, according to the statement.
The U.S. military initially described the general's death as apparently from natural causes, but changed the account in the weeks after revelations surfaced this spring of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib jail on the outskirts of Baghdad.
A summary released by Fort Carson of the charge sheets brought against the four soldiers said they killed him "by means of suffocating him with the use of a sleeping bag and electrical cord."
The U.S. military has said U.S. soldiers placed Mowhoush head-first into a sleeping bag, then rolled him back and forth during questioning before a soldier sat on his chest. The general was in custody for about two weeks before his death.
The initial U.S. military account of his death last November described it much more benignly.
A military statement said, "Mowhoush said he didn't feel well and subsequently lost consciousness. The soldier questioning him found no pulse, then conducted CPR and called for medical authorities. A surgeon responded within five minutes to continue advanced cardiac life-support techniques, but they were ineffective. According to the on-site surgeon, it appeared Mowhoush died of natural causes."
The Army said the four soldiers, all of whom are back in the United States after serving with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Iraq, have not been placed in detention and still are serving with their units.
Kim Tisor, a spokeswoman at the base, said if the military proceeds with courts-martial, the trials would be held at Fort Carson. Tisor said the next step for the soldiers is a proceeding called an Article 32 hearing in which an officer hears evidence and decides whether the case should go to trial, but the soldiers could waive this proceeding.
Williams, Welshofer and Sommer were members of military intelligence units, while Loper was part of an aviation maintenance unit, the Army said.
(Additional reporting by Judith Crosson)