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2 low-ranking reservists face punishment in detainees' deaths

PALO ALTO, Calif.—More than four months after a criminal investigation implicated 28 U.S. soldiers and reservists in the beatings and deaths of two Afghan detainees, disciplinary proceedings have been initiated against only two low-ranking reservists.

According to information recently released at Fort Bliss in Texas, Pfc. Willie Brand of the 377th Military Police Company, based in Cincinnati, was charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of a detainee named Dilawar, whose body was found Dec. 10, 2002, in an isolation cell used for interrogations at Bagram Air Base. Brand also has been charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, maiming, maltreatment and false swearing, meaning lying under oath.

Another member of the 377th MP Company, Sgt. James P. Boland, was charged on Aug. 23, 2004, with assault, maltreatment and dereliction of duty in Dilawar's death and with dereliction of duty in the death of a detainee named Habibullah on Dec. 3, 2002.

Army pathologists classified both deaths as homicides and noted that both men had sustained blunt-force injuries to their legs. Army investigators also found that the men had been chained to the ceiling for prolonged periods.

The Department of Defense has acknowledged the deaths of eight detainees in Afghanistan.

The investigations into the deaths of Dilawar and Habibullah were finished in October 2004.

In February, the Army announced that Maj. Gen. Michael A. Vane, the commanding general of Fort Bliss, would decide which of the 28 soldiers identified by criminal investigators would receive trial by courts-martial or administrative punishment.

Jean Offutt, a spokeswoman for Fort Bliss, said a preliminary hearing on the charges against Brand was scheduled for later in March and that a hearing on the charges against Boland had been delayed at the request of his attorney. After the hearings, Vane will decide whether to proceed with courts-martial.

Offutt said no other form of discipline had been decided on for any of the other soldiers said to be involved in the deaths, including six interrogators from the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, based in Fort Bragg, N.C.

Two of the interrogators believed to be involved in the Bagram deaths later were sent to Iraq, and one was subsequently disciplined for allegedly mistreating a female detainee at Abu Ghraib, the Iraqi prison that was the focus of a notorious abuse scandal last year.

In August, an Army investigation recommended that action be taken against Capt. Carolyn Wood, who oversaw interrogators at Abu Ghraib and Bagram.

The investigation found that in Iraq Wood had "failed to implement the necessary checks and balances to prevent detainee abuse" and criticized her for not ensuring that her soldiers were properly trained in interrogation techniques.

Wood "failed to properly review interrogation plans which clearly specified the improper use of nudity and isolation in interrogations and as punishment" at the Iraqi prison, a report on the investigation said.

The Baltimore Sun has reported that Wood was among the 28 soldiers named by investigators in connection with the Bagram deaths. Paul Boyce, an Army spokesman, wouldn't confirm that. "She was not named publicly by the Army in any investigation," he said.

Wood hasn't been disciplined for her role in any abuse in the Afghan prison or the Iraqi prison. "Any legal situation regarding her has not yet been resolved," said Lt. Col. Pamela Hart, an Army spokeswoman based at the Pentagon.

Wood is assigned to the Army Intelligence Center in Fort Huachuca, Ariz.


(Ackerman reports for the San Jose Mercury News.)


(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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