Sat, Aug 19, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Ex-CIA medic guilty of abusing Afghan detainee


Former CIA contractor David Passaro, center, speaks to the media in front of the North Carolina Federal Building in Raleigh on Aug. 27, 2004. Passaro was convicted on Thursday of assaulting an Afghan prisoner who later died.


A former CIA contractor was found guilty on Thursday of assaulting an Afghan prisoner who later died in a case that raised new questions about the treatment of detainees by US interrogators.

David Passaro, a 40-year-old former Special Forces medic, was the first civilian to be charged with abusing a detainee in the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Prosecutors said on Thursday that the verdict against Passaro sets a precedent for bringing others accused of such wrongdoing overseas back to the US to stand trial.

Human-rights advocates, however, noted that no other US civilian has been charged publicly with abusing detainees in the two years since Passaro's arrest.

Prosecutors said Passaro beat the prisoner, Abdul Wali, so badly that he pleaded to be shot to end his pain. Wali died of his injuries two days after the interrogation in June 2003.

"Passaro's actions were unlawful, reprehensible and neither authorized nor condoned by the agency," CIA Director Michael Hayden said in Washington after a federal jury in Raleigh, North Carolina, convicted Passaro.

Passaro was found guilty on a felony charge of assault causing serious injury and three misdemeanor counts of simple assault. He faces a maximum of 10 years for the felony and six months on each of the three misdemeanors.

Passaro was tried under a provision of the USA Patriot Act that allows charges against US citizens for crimes committed on land or facilities designated for use by the US government.

Should there be other US civilians accused of similar crimes, they can be tried in the same way, acting US Attorney George Holding said.

However, Duke University law professor Scott Silliman and others said the secretive nature of the CIA's work overseas makes it hard to tell whether similar cases will follow.

In Passaro's case, much of the court record was placed under seal for security reasons and several agents testified in disguise using fictitious names.

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