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Army private cleared of Afghan abuse charges

Damien M. Corsetti, an Army private , was cleared Thursday of charges that he abused inmates at a U.S. jail in Afghanistan.
/ Source: The Associated Press

An Army private was acquitted Thursday of charges that he abused inmates at a U.S. detention facility in Afghanistan.

Pfc. Damien M. Corsetti was the last soldier charged in the Army’s investigations of prisoner abuse in Afghanistan. He cried with relief when the court-martial panel cleared him of charges of assault, maltreatment, dereliction of duty, using hashish and drinking on duty.

The panel deliberated about 30 minutes.

Corsetti was accused of mistreating detainees at an American jail at Bagram Air Field in 2002 and 2003. Army prosecutors said he hit, kicked, sat on and threatened to sexually assault the men.

Prosecutors argued that Corsetti was a violent man who repeatedly mistreated detainees. Ahmed al-Darbi, an accused al-Qaida member whose brother-in-law was a Sept. 11 hijacker, identified Corsetti from a photo lineup as his abuser while being interviewed at an American jail in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Corsetti also was accused of abusing Omar al-Farouq, a one-time al-Qaida lieutenant in Southeast Asia who escaped from Bagram last summer.

Rules at jail unclear
William E. Cassara, Corsetti’s civilian lawyer, argued that rules at the jail were unclear and that al-Darbi was a hardened terrorist who has been trained to lie about abuses by U.S. soldiers.

He also argued that charges of Corsetti abusing al-Farouq were baseless since investigators have never spoken to the accused terrorist about the allegations.

Corsetti also had been accused of undressing and trying to kiss a female detainee when he was stationed at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, but was cleared of those charges as well.

Corsetti is the last of 15 soldiers to face charges in an abuse investigation launched after two detainees died in 2002.

The counter-intelligence soldier, with the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion at Fort Bragg, N.C., is not charged with abusing those two.