KABUL, Afghanistan – The U.S. military said Thursday it would prosecute in a military court two of its soldiers for allegedly punching two detainees in the chest, shoulders and stomach at a military base in Afghanistan.
The alleged assault occurred in southern Uruzgan province in early July. Neither detainee required medical attention, according to the military.
The charges against Army Sgt. Kevin D. Myricks and Army Spc. James R. Hayes include conspiracy to maltreat, assault, and dereliction of duty, a military statement said.
The two men could face a range of punishments, including prison sentences, U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Jerry O'Hara said.
The court martial will be held at Bagram, the U.S. military's headquarters in Afghanistan. A date for the trial has not been set.
The military said late last month that it had charged the men, but Thursday's announcement means the men will be prosecuted rather than face non-judicial punishments.
O'Hara said "the decision to court martial the soldiers shows how seriously the force takes allegations of prisoner assault."
A third soldier faces non-judicial punishment for allegedly having knowledge of the abuse but not reporting it, the statement said.
The announcement came as the military is about to release the results of an investigation into television footage purportedly showing a group of U.S. soldiers burning the bodies of two dead Taliban rebels in October.
Cremation of corpses is banned in Islam and the alleged desecration was condemned by President Hamid Karzai. The government ordered an immediate independent inquiry and called for the perpetrators to be severely punished if found guilty.
The allegations of prisoner abuse are not the first to stem from Afghanistan.
In 2002, two Afghans held at Bagram died after being beaten. Fifteen soldiers have faced charges for those deaths. A year later, another Afghan died while being held at a base in southern Helmand province, according to an autopsy report provided by the Defense Department.