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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 April 2007, 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK
US prison chief arrested in Iraq
US troops handle Iraqi prisoner (file photo)
US handling of Iraqi detainees has been controversial from the start
The commander of a major US military prison in Iraq has been arrested for offences including aiding the enemy.

Lt Col William Steele is accused of giving detainees free use of a mobile phone at Camp Cropper and fraternising with the daughter of a detainee.

It is the latest of several scandals involving US jails in Iraq, the worst being the 2003 Abu Ghraib abuse case.

Col Steele is also accused of improper behaviour with his Iraqi interpreter and holding unauthorised information.

There are four overall charges against Col Steele and nine specific alleged offences. He was arrested last month and is being detained in Kuwait, a US military spokeswoman said.

CHARGES AGAINST COL STEELE
Providing unmonitored mobile phone to detainees
Mishandling classified information
Fraternising with detainee's daughter
Inappropriate relationship with interpreter and providing her special privileges
Failing to obey a lawful order
Possessing pornographic videos
Failing obligations as approving authority for expenditure
Others offences include dereliction in the performance of his duties, failing to obey an order and wrongfully possessing pornographic videos.

The alleged offences took place between October 2005 and February 2007, a US statement said. Col Steele was arrested in March.

"His current status is that he is in confinement and waiting for his Article 32 hearing," the spokeswoman said.

The hearing would be conducted by a panel of military officers who are to decide whether the suspect should face charges.

Criticism

Camp Cropper, in the west of the Iraqi capital close to Baghdad International Airport, is believed to hold about 3,300 Iraqi prisoners.

It is the second largest US military jail in Iraq, the other being Camp Bucca, near Umm Qasr in the south of the country, which holds an estimated 15,000 detainees.

Executed former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein spent time there, including for medical treatment, although the US military says he was never under Col Steele's responsibility.

US detention facilities in Iraq have been the target of sustained criticism for holding detainees without charge and for widespread abuse of prisoners.

The worst controversy was in the first year of the US occupation of Iraq, when it was revealed that guards abused prisoners at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison on the outskirts of Baghdad.




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