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3 charged in death of Iraqi general

US soldiers face murder trial

DENVER -- Three soldiers have been ordered to stand trial at Fort Carson on murder charges in the suffocation of an Iraqi general, who died during an interrogation 1 1/2 years ago.

Chief Warrant Officers Lewis Welshofer and Jeff L. Williams and Specialist Jerry Loper, all of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment, also face charges of assault and dereliction of duty during combat operations, Army spokeswoman Kim Tisor said Thursday.

Prosecutors claim the soldiers put Major General Abed Mowhoush headfirst into a sleeping bag, tied him up with an electrical cord, and threw him to the ground.

The Army accuses the soldiers of sitting and standing on Mowhoush's chest.

Previously secret court testimony indicates that the Iraqi general's body was badly bruised and that he may have been severely beaten two days before he suffocated on Nov. 26, 2003.

No date was set for the court-martial.

If convicted of all charges, the soldiers face life imprisonment without parole, forfeiture of all pay, and dishonorable discharges.

Welshofer and Williams were interrogators, and Loper a prison guard.

All have denied wrongdoing, saying commanders had sanctioned their actions.

Messages left for Welshofer's lawyer, Frank Spinner, and Williams's lawyer, William Cassara, were not returned. No number was immediately available for the lawyer representing Loper.

A fourth soldier, Sergeant First Class William Sommer, also faced charges, but Captain Robert Ayers, the hearing officer, had recommended that they be dismissed.

Ayers recommended Sommer, an interpreter, receive a reprimand for failing to protect Mowhoush and be given immunity so he can testify against the other soldiers, according to a report obtained last month by The Denver Post.

Ayers also had recommended that Williams face reduced charges of involuntary manslaughter and assault instead of murder charges.

''It is possible his actions were inherently dangerous, but more than likely government counsel will only be able to prove at court-martial that CW2 Williams acted with culpable negligence," Ayers wrote in his report dated May 5.

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