Charges expected soon against U.S. soldiers in Afghan prison abuse

WASHINGTON (AP) - About two dozen U.S. soldiers have been implicated in an Army criminal investigation into the deaths nearly two years ago of two detainees in U.S. custody in Afghanistan, a senior defense official said Wednesday.

The official, who discussed the matter on condition of anonymity, said the probe is not yet complete.

The Washington Post reported in its Wednesday editions that the Army is expected to begin filing charges soon against 26 soldiers. Investigators have recommended bringing abuse-related charges ranging from negligent homicide to dereliction of duty and failure to report an offense, the Post reported.

One sergeant has already been charged, the newspaper said.

A Pentagon spokesman said he had no information about the Post report.

Christopher Grey, spokesman for the Army's Criminal Investigation Command in Ft. Belvoir, Va., would not confirm whether any U.S. soldiers have been implicated in the probe or what units are under investigation.

"We do have an investigation ongoing and are nearing completion of that investigation," Grey said Wednesday.

The senior defense official, who asked not to be identified because the investigation is not yet officially complete, said most of the people implicated in the case were not directly involved in the abuse but witnessed it or were otherwise aware of it but failed to report the wrongdoing.

In Afghanistan, a spokeswoman for the military said it "welcomes investigation into alleged criminal acts with the goal of determining justice."

"Of course, the accused are innocent until proven guilty," Lt. Col. Susan Meisner said in an e-mail. She did not address the detail of the Post's report.

The military has spent more than a year investigating the deaths of the two prisoners at the U.S. base in Bagram, Afghanistan, in December 2002. One died of a pulmonary embolism due to blunt-force injuries to the legs, the other from blunt-force injuries to his lower extremities complicating coronary artery disease.

Most of the soldiers facing charges are from the Fort Bragg, N.C.-based 519th Military Intelligence Battalion and the 377th Military Police Company, an Army Reserve unit based in Cincinnati.

Some members of the 519th intelligence unit were later deployed to Iraq and have also been implicated in the abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison that occurred in late 2003.


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