U.S. army interrogator convicted in Iraqi general's death

Monday, January 23, 2006

A U.S. military court found Army chief warrant officer Lewis Welshofer guilty of negligent homicide in the death of Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush during an interrogation in al-Qaim in Iraq, near the Syrian border, in November 2003.

The Iraqi general died after Welshofer shoved the general head-first into a sleeping bag, sat on him and occasionally covered the generals mouth with his hands. Welshofer's supervisor had approved this technique except that Welshofer did not tell his supervisor that he sat on prisoners.

The prosecution described the techniques Welshofer used to obtain information from Mowhoush as "torture".

The defense argued that Welshofer's interrogation methods were covered by official policy. His unit's commander Captain William Ponce wrote in an email three months before Mowhoush died that there were no rules for interrogations yet and that "the gloves are coming off, gentlemen ... we want these individuals broken. Casualties are mounting." Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the commanding officer in Iraq, authorized new interrogation techniques which according to Welshofer included the sleeping bag method.

The jury consisting of six military officers also found Welshofer guilty of negligent dereliction of duty, but acquitted of the more serious murder and assault charges.

Two days before his death, Mowhoush was beaten with rubber hoses, allegedly by CIA subcontractors, in the presence of Welshofer and on the next day Welshofer held Mowhoush while water was poured on this face.

Welshinger testified that he had used the sleeping bag technique a dozen to two dozen times in Iraq.

The sentencing is scheduled for Monday when Welshofer faces a maximum penalty of three years in a military prison. Last year U.S. army reservist Lynndie England was convicted of one count of conspiracy, four counts of maltreating detainees and one count of committing an indecent act and is currently serving her sentence of three years in prison. None of the charges levied against her involved the death of a detainee and her defense also argued that she was acting with consent of superiors.