SAN DIEGO – One is accused of punching an Iraqi prisoner. Another faces allegations that he kicked, choked and humiliated captives.
Both Navy lieutenants are facing Article 32 hearings (search) this week, the military equivalent of a civilian grand jury.
The first hearing is set to begin Tuesday, the second Thursday. Both were delayed for weeks, in part because of concerns about classified information available to defense attorneys involved in the case.
The Navy has not released the names of the officers, who are both members of the Coronado-based Sea, Air, Land unit known as SEAL Team-7 (search).
The officer scheduled to appear at Tuesday's hearing was accused of punching Manadel al-Jamadi and allowing other Navy personnel to abuse the prisoner, according to a charge sheet released by the Navy.
Al-Jamadi, a suspect in the bombing of a Red Cross facility, was captured by SEALs in November 2003 during a joint special forces-CIA mission, and died a short time later at Abu Ghraib prison.
Frank Spinner, a civilian defense attorney, said Monday he would file a formal objection to the proceeding because he cannot attend and the Navy has refused to grant a delay. Spinner said he has been summoned for jury duty in Colorado, where he lives.
Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the accused SEAL is entitled to civilian defense counsel. "If they proceed without me, a judge in several months may order them to go back and do another Article 32 hearing," Spinner said.
On Thursday, the other lieutenant will face allegations that he kicked, choked and twisted the testicles on prisoners in Iraq in incidents from October 2003 to April 2004, according to his charge sheet. He is also accused of putting a pumpkin mask on a prisoner's face in November 2003 and taking pictures.
His civilian attorney, Eugene Fidell, declined to comment last week.
The charges against the two lieutenants include dereliction of duty, maltreatment, assault and conduct unbecoming an officer.
Both men are accused of posing in photos in which al-Jamadi was allegedly humiliated. In April of this year, one of the lieutenants allegedly told members of his platoon "it was not smart to have pictures of prisoners," according to the charge sheet.
Navy lawyers will hear the evidence against both SEALs and make a recommendation to Rear Adm. Joseph Maguire, the top SEAL. Maguire will make a final decision on whether to convene a court-martial.
Eight other unnamed members of SEAL Team 7 also face criminal charges following an investigation into allegations of detainee abuse.
Six SEALs have received nonjudicial punishment at captain's mast proceedings. Two others are facing special courts-martial, the civilian equivalent of a misdemeanor trial.