The trial of an Army captain accused of assaulting Iraqi civilians began with a witness testifying the officer saw himself as a "sheik" or a "king" of the Iraqi desert town under his supervision.
Captain Shawn Martin faces eight counts of assault and one count each of obstruction of justice and conduct unbecoming of an officer. Army officials say Martin faces 44 years in prison if convicted.
Lieutenant Joseph Heyman testified on Monday that after an Army vehicle was damaged by a bomb, he saw Martin point a gun at the head of an Iraqi detainee and shout, "What do you know about this? If you don't tell me, I swear I'll kill you."
Prosecutors have also said Martin beat Iraqis with an aluminum baseball bat and once fired his pistol at the feet of an Iraqi suspect during an interrogation.
In another incident, witnesses said Martin took an Iraqi welder suspected of ties to insurgents into the desert and ordered him to dig his own grave.
Staff Sergeant Robert Cureton, who served as Martin's bodyguard, said his superior ordered him to shoot near the Iraqi and he refused. He said Martin then pointed his pistol at him and demanded: "Fire your [expletive] weapon!"
Asked what he did, Cureton told the court: "I turned around and fired a round."
The alleged assaults took place from May to July 2003 in Rutbah, a town of about 25,000 in Iraq's western desert. Even before the unit arrived in Iraq, Martin thought he would be a "sheik" or a "king," Lieutenant David Minor testified.