FORT CARSON, Colo., April 2 -- Previously secret court testimony indicates that an Iraqi general imprisoned by U.S. forces was badly bruised and may have been severely beaten two days before he died of suffocation during interrogation.
References to the alleged beating appear in a transcript, released under court order, from a preliminary military hearing for three soldiers charged with murder and dereliction of duty in the death of Maj. Gen. Abed Mowhoush on Nov. 26, 2003. A fourth soldier faces the same charges but waived a hearing.
During the interrogation, Army prosecutors said, Mowhoush was put headfirst into a sleeping bag, wrapped with electrical cord and knocked down before the soldiers sat and stood on him. The cause of death was determined to be suffocation.
The defendants -- Chief Warrant Officers Lewis Welshofer and Jefferson Williams, Sgt. 1st Class William Sommer and Spec. Jerry Loper -- have all denied wrongdoing. They said commanders had sanctioned their actions.
According to the transcript, witnesses said others had also beaten Mowhoush days before the Army interrogation. Their names and the names of their agencies were blacked out.
Col. David A. Teeples, the men's commander, said during the closed hearing: "My thought was that the death of Mowhoush was brought about by . . . [blacked out] and then it was unfortunate and accidental, what had happened under an interrogation by our people."
According to the transcript, Army special investigator Curtis Ryan testified that he found extensive bruising when he examined Mowhoush shortly after he died. "So, at some point prior to the 26th, he had been beaten," Ryan said.
An autopsy revealed that Mowhoush had also suffered broken ribs, testimony showed.
The military closed the hearing to the public shortly after it began in December, but the Denver Post successfully sued to open it, and the proceeding was concluded this week in open court. The transcript was released Thursday and posted on the Internet.
Fort Carson's commander, Maj. Gen. Robert Mixon, will decide whether the soldiers are to be court-martialed, after he receives a recommendation from the investigating officer, Capt. Robert Ayers. No timetable was set.