Soldier Said to Witness Prison Beatings

1 hour, 16 minutes ago

A National Guardsman testifying at a hearing for U.S. soldiers accused of killing an Iraq general said he saw classified U.S. personnel beat prisoners with a sledgehammer handle and mock the general's death, according to a transcript.

The transcript, obtained by The Denver Post, includes an exchange during the hearing that suggests the CIA was involved.

Sgt. 1st Class Gerold Pratt of the Utah National Guard said he saw unidentified U.S. personnel use the 15-inch wooden handle to hit prisoners.

"They'd ask you a question, and if they didn't like it, they'd hit you," he said, according to the transcript obtained this week by the Post under a court order. Pratt testified at the hearing in March.

The hearing will determine whether three soldiers from Fort Carson will stand trial for the death of Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush during an interrogation in 2003.

The soldiers have denied wrongdoing and say commanders sanctioned their actions.

Most identifying information in the transcript was redacted, but one exchange suggests CIA involvement. "To your knowledge, SFC Sommer did not accompany any of these CIA folks?" defense attorney Capt. Michael Melito asked Pratt.

A CIA spokeswoman who declined to give the Post her name would not comment.

Pratt — who had run logistics at the detention facility near Qaim, a city in Iraq's western desert — said he recalled an official mocking the prisoners he was beating.

"Well, particularly after the general was killed. I don't remember the exact words, but he was mocking the fact that the general died," Pratt testified.

The Army said Mowhoush died of asphyxiation from chest compression. Documents in the case said he was killed with an electrical cord, and a Pentagon investigation reportedly says a soldier sat on Mowhoush as he was restrained headfirst inside a sleeping bag.

Previous testimony indicated the Iraqi general's body was badly bruised and he may have been severely beaten two days before he was suffocated.

Charged with murder are Chief Warrant Officer Jefferson Williams, Spec. Jerry Loper and Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer, who was not part of the hearing. Final charges are pending against the fourth accused soldier, Sgt. 1st Class William Sommer.

The hearing officer has forwarded the case report, and Fort Carson's commander, Maj. Gen. Robert Mixon, will make the final decision on whether the soldiers will be court-martialed.

The soldiers could get life in prison without parole if they are convicted of murder.

Williams' attorney, William Cassara, said he was sure other officials were involved in prisoner abuse.

"I have no doubts that other government agencies used methods of interrogation that were much worse," Cassara said.

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