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Negligent homicide found in Iraqi general's death

CARSON, Colo. -- A US Army officer was found guilty yesterday of negligent homicide in the death of an Iraqi general during an interrogation in Iraq, but the jury said he was not guilty on the more serious charge of murder.

A jury of six Army officers convicted Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer Jr. in the suffocation death of Iraqi Major General Abed Hamed Mowhush. The general was placed head-first in a sleeping bag while Welshofer covered his mouth and sat on his chest during an interrogation in November 2003.

Prosecutors accused Welshofer of using harsh techniques to try to get information from Mowhush, describing them as ''torture."

After 6 1/2 hours of deliberation until late last night, the military jury also found Welshofer guilty of negligent dereliction of duty.

He could face a sentence of up to three years in prison on the negligent homicide charge, military officials said.

Prosecutors said Welshofer had ordered civilian interrogators to beat the Iraqi general and had used an interrogation technique not approved by commanders.

Defense lawyer Frank Spinner argued that a heart condition contributed to Mowhoush's death. Cyril Wecht, chief medical examiner of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania, testified for the defense, saying Mowhoush died from a fatal disruptive heart rhythm that stemmed from the stress of his detention.

The defense rested Friday, the fifth day of the court-martial. Closing arguments were delivered yesterday morning.

Welshofer argued that commanders offered little guidance on how to question detainees.

He testified that he received an e-mail from his unit's commanders saying there were no rules for interrogations because officials had not determined how to classify detainees.

He said that the e-mail came during a tense and confusing time, as the Iraqi insurgency was growing more lethal, and that it said officers were ''tired of taking casualties and that the gloves were coming off."

Welshofer testified that he improvised the sleeping bag interrogation technique based on his experience as a survival-course instructor for the military.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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