Court Martial Begins for Fort Carson Soldier

January 17 2006, 8:20 AM

A military judge Monday refused to dismiss murder charges against a Fort Carson soldier, Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer Jr. Welshofer's murder charge pertains to the death of Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush in Qaim, Iraq. He died during interrogation. This was how Maj. Gen. Mowhoush looked in happier times: The Washington Post reviewed the documents in the Mowhoush death.

When Army efforts produced nothing useful, detainees would be handed over to members of Operational Detachment Alpha 531, soldiers with the 5th Special Forces Group, the CIA or a combination of the three. "The personnel were dressed in civilian clothes and wore balaclavas to hide their identity," according to a Jan. 18, 2004, report for the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division. If they did not get what they wanted, the interrogators would deliver the detainees to a small team of the CIA-sponsored Iraqi paramilitary squads, code-named Scorpions, according to a military source familiar with the operation. The Jan. 18 memo indicates that it was "likely that indigenous personnel in the employ of the CIA interrogated MG Mowhoush."

Then the fun began.

The CIA has tried hard to conceal the existence of the Scorpions. CIA classification officials have monitored pretrial hearings in the case and have urged the court to close much of the hearing on national security grounds. Redacted transcripts were released only after lawyers for the Denver Post challenged the rulings. On Nov. 24, the CIA and one of its four-man Scorpion units interrogated Mowhoush, according to investigative records. When he didn't answer or provided an answer that they didn't like, at first [redacted] would slap Mowhoush, and then after a few slaps, it turned into punches," Ryan testified. "And then from punches, it turned into [redacted] using a piece of hose." "The indig were hitting the detainee with fists, a club and a length of rubber hose," according to classified investigative records.

It got worse, and then Mowhoush was dead. The Denver Post reported at the time:

Mowhoush was placed in a sleeping bag and tied with an electrical cord in what the Army referred to as stress positions during a Nov. 26, 2003, interrogation at the Qaim detention facility northwest of Baghdad, according to the charges and other documents. Special forces and other individuals previously interrogated the general, leaving him with "bruises, contusions and possibly some fractured ribs," the document said.... "This particular stress position has been used in the past and had rendered one person unconscious," Army lawyers wrote. "After that incident, CW3 Welshofer directed that only he and (another soldier) could use the sleeping bag technique."

There isn't any doubt that the Geneva Conventions applied to Mowhoush, who was a military officer. Nor is there much doubt that the protections afforded by those agreements were ignored. What was Welshofer's participation?

Soldiers heard Mowhoush "being beaten with a hard object� and heard him "screaming� from down the hall, according to the Jan. 18, 2004, provost marshal's report. The report said four Army guards had to carry Mowhoush back to his cell. Two days later, at 8 a.m., Nov. 26, Mowhoush – prisoner No. 76 – was brought, moaning and breathing hard, to Interrogation Room 6, according to court testimony. Chief Warrant Officer Lewis E. Welshofer Jr. did a first round of interrogations for 30minutes, taking a 15-minute break and resuming at 8:45. According to court testimony, Welshofer and Spc. Jerry L. Loper, a mechanic, put Mowhoush into the sleeping bag and wrapped the bag in electrical wire. Investigative records show that he "becomes unresponsive� at 9:06 a.m. Medics tried to resuscitate him for 30 minutes before pronouncing him dead.

Let the court-martial begin.

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