SAN DIEGO – Military prosecutors rested their case Wednesday against a Navy SEAL (search) lieutenant accused of joining his men as they beat a hooded and handcuffed suspected Iraqi insurgent.
The detainee died shortly after the SEALs handed him over to the CIA (search), and Lt. Andrew K. Ledford is facing 11 years in prison if he's convicted of assault, making false official statements, dereliction of duty and conduct unbecoming an officer.
Military prosecutors presented no evidence linking Ledford to the detainee's death.
Manadel al-Jamadi died during CIA interrogation at Abu Ghraib (search) prison. Photos of Army guards posing with his corpse were among the notorious images to emerge from the prison scandal. The CIA handed the case over the Justice Department for possible prosecution, but no charges have been filed.
Ledford, 32, commanded a SEAL platoon that was given the task in November 2003 of capturing al-Jamadi. An Army report last year said al-Jamadi was suspected in the bombing of Red Cross offices in Baghdad that killed 12.
Following a fierce struggle, the SEALs captured al-Jamadi in his apartment and drove to an Army base, where three men who served under Ledford testified that they punched, kicked and struck al-Jamadi with their rifle muzzles, then posed for photos with the prisoner. One photo shows Ledford holding up a can of Red Bull energy drink.
Defense attorneys maintain that Ledford did not know about the beating as it took place. Only one of the three witnesses testified Ledford was in the area when the abuse occurred, but he was unsure if the lieutenant witnessed the abuse.
One of the men, a Navy SEAL who testified Wednesday, said he struck the handcuffed detainee although he posed no threat. He was among eight SEALs and one sailor who received administrative punishment for allegations of prisoner abuse. The Associated Press is not identifying him at the request of attorneys for the Navy and the defense, who said doing so could endanger his safety on future missions.
Among witnesses Wednesday were two military attorneys who briefed Ledford's platoon on the rules governing the handling of prisoners shortly before and immediately after they arrived in Iraq.
Both attorneys said they instructed the SEALs that everyone in their custody was to be treated humanely. According to the attorneys, the SEALs were told it wasn't their job to decide who was an enemy prisoner and who was an "unlawful combatant" — such as suspected terrorists — to whom the Geneva Convention did not apply.
The defense begins presenting its case Thursday.