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US officer held guilty over Iraqi general's death

An Army interrogator was convicted of negligent homicide late on Saturday in the death of an Iraqi general at a detention camp.

india Updated: Jan 22, 2006 13:02 IST

An Army interrogator was convicted of negligent homicide late on Saturday in the death of an Iraqi general at a detention camp.

A panel of six Army officers also convicted Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer Jr, 43, of negligent dereliction of duty but acquitted him of assault after six hours of deliberations. Welshofer was accused of putting a sleeping bag over the head of Iraqi Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush, sitting on his chest and using his hand to cover the general's mouth while asking him questions in 2003.

Welshofer, who stood silently and showed no reaction when the verdict was announced, faces a dishonorable discharge and up to three years in prison for negligent homicide and three months for negligent dereliction of duty. Sentencing was scheduled for Monday. If convicted of the original murder charge, he could have been sentenced to life in prison.

The defense had argued a heart condition caused Mowhoush's death, and that Welshofer's commanders had approved the interrogation technique.

"What he was doing he was doing in the open, and he was doing it because he believed the information in fact would save lives," attorney Frank Spinner said.

Prosecutor Major Tiernan Dolan described a rogue interrogator who became frustrated with Mowhoush's refusal to answer questions and escalated his techniques from simple interviews to beatings to simulating drowning, and finally, to death.

"He treated that general worse than you would treat a dog and he did so knowing he was required to treat the general humanely," Dolan said.

Welshofer used his sleeping bag technique in the presence of lower ranking soldiers, but never in the presence of officers with the authority to stop him, Dolan said.

The treatment of the Iraqi general "could fairly be described as torture," Dolan said.

In an e-mail to a commander, Dolan said, Welshofer wrote that restrictions on interrogation techniques were impeding the Army's ability to gather intelligence. Welshofer wrote that authorized techniques came from Cold War-era doctrine that did not apply in Iraq, Dolan said.

First Published: Jan 22, 2006 13:02 IST