Guardsman: CIA beat Iraqis with hammer handles
By Arthur Kane
Denver Post Staff Writer
July 27, 2005
CIA officials used a sledgehammer handle to beat various prisoners in Iraq, and one official, whose name is classified, would often brag about his abuse of prisoners, according to testimony in a closed session of a military hearing.
The transcript, obtained this week by The Denver Post under a court order, was of a March hearing to determine whether three Fort Carson Army soldiers should stand trial for the death of Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush during an interrogation in 2003.
Chief Warrant Officer Jefferson Williams and Spec. Jerry Loper face murder charges in the case. A third soldier, Sgt. 1st Class William Sommer, has not had final charges approved, though he also was involved in the March preliminary Article 32 hearing.
Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer waived his hearing but is charged with murder.
In the March hearing, Sgt. 1st Class Gerold Pratt of the Utah National Guard said he saw classified personnel use a 15-inch wooden sledgehammer handle to hit prisoners.
“They’d ask you a question, and if they didn’t like it, they’d hit you,” he said.
“With Chief Welshofer, he’d at least give the detainee a chance to tell the truth,” testified Pratt, who was running logistics at the detention facility near Qaim dubbed the Blacksmith Hotel.
A CIA spokeswoman, who declined to give her name, would not comment.
While identifying information in the transcript is redacted in most cases, an exchange between Pratt and a defense attorney show that the CIA was involved.
“To your knowledge, SFC Sommer did not accompany any of these CIA folks?” Capt. Michael Melito, who was then representing Sommer, asked Pratt.
While allegations about CIA officials and special forces beating Mowhoush with fists and a rubber hose have been previously reported, the court transcript is the first evidence that those officials repeatedly beat other detainees in northwestern Iraq.
In open session during the hearing, Pratt also testified that Williams threw a heavy box of food at Mowhoush. That testimony resulted in an additional charge of assault against Williams.
Williams’ attorney, William Cassara, disputed the incident with the box and previously questioned Pratt’s credibility. But Cassara said he was sure other officials were involved in prisoner abuse.
“I have no doubts that other government agencies used methods of interrogation that were much worse than what Chief Welshofer used,” Cassara said.
Later, Pratt testified that the official was mocking the prisoners he was beating.
“Well, particularly after the general was killed. I don’t remember the exact words, but he was mocking the fact that the general died,” Pratt testified.
Williams and Welshofer, through their attorneys, had previously denied any wrongdoing.
Welshofer’s attorney could not be reached for comment.
Staff writer Arthur Kane can be reached at 303-820-1626 or firstname.lastname@example.org