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Navy SEALs face court-martial hearing

Two commandos from a California-based Navy SEAL unit will face court-martial proceedings for allegedly assaulting a prisoner who died at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the Navy said Wednesday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Two Navy SEALs will face court-martial proceedings for allegedly assaulting a prisoner who died at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the Navy said Wednesday.

The two commandos from a Coronado-based Sea, Air, Land unit known as SEAL Team-7 also are accused of posing in photographs taken while the prisoner was subjected to degrading treatment, according to court documents.

Neither of the two SEALs is charged with killing the prisoner.

Article 32 hearings, the military equivalent of a civilian grand jury, are set for Thursday and Friday at Naval Base San Diego for the two enlisted SEALs. The charges against them include aggravated assault, maltreatment, dereliction of duty and disobeying orders.

The Navy withheld the names of the two and identified them only as an aviation boatswain’s mate and a hospital corpsman first class.

The boatswain’s mate allegedly kicked, punched and kneed prisoners in Iraq. He also twisted prisoners’ testicles and struck a prisoner in the buttocks with a wooden board, according to the charge sheets.

John Tranberg, a civilian defense attorney representing the boatswain’s mate, said he believed the charges had been exaggerated. He was reluctant to comment further on the case, saying he was uncertain was information was classified.

The boatswain’s mate also allegedly punched Manadel al-Jamadi, a suspect in an attack on a Red Cross facility, in the stomach and back, and encouraged another sailor to join in.

The following day — Nov. 4, 2003 — al-Jamadi was found dead in a shower at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. A military pathologist ruled that al-Jamadi died of blunt force trauma to the head.

The hospital corpsman is accused of punching, kicking and breaking the fingers of prisoners. The corpsman also is accused of pointing a loaded firearm at al-Jamadi’s head.

The alleged abuses occurred between October 2003 and April, according to the charge sheets.

5 others implicated earlier
Five other SEALs were implicated. Charges were dismissed Tuesday against a chief petty officer in a nonjudicial proceeding known as a captain’s mast, said civilian defense attorney Jeremiah Sullivan. The chief petty officer was not present when al-Jamadi was captured and allegedly beaten by other members of the unit, Sullivan said.

The remaining cases have not been scheduled for Article 32 hearings, said Cmdr. Jeff Bender, a spokesman for Naval Special Warfare Command in Coronado.

Defense attorneys for two of the accused say the charges of prisoner abuse were initiated by an ex-SEAL who earned the nickname “Klepto” for stealing a fellow SEAL’s body armor in Iraq.

The ex-SEAL made the allegations while appealing a decision to kick him out of the SEALs for theft, according to Tranberg and Milt Silverman, another defense attorney for one of the SEALs. Silverman did not return a message seeking comment on Wednesday.

The attorneys also said al-Jamadi was in good condition when the CIA took custody of him. Members of Seal Team-7 were part of Task Force 121, a special operations-CIA unit hunting targets in Iraq, according to an Army report on Abu Ghraib.

The CIA has declined to comment on the case.