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Last Updated: Monday, 30 April 2007, 08:50 GMT 09:50 UK
Iraq hearing for US prison chief
US troops handle Iraqi prisoner (file photo)
US handling of Iraqi detainees has been controversial from the start
A hearing has begun to decide if a US officer accused of aiding the enemy while in command of a detention centre in Iraq should face a court martial.

Lt Col William Steele led a military police group which ran Camp Cropper, the second-largest jail in Iraq.

He is accused of offences including allowing detainees free use of a mobile phone and fraternising with the daughter of a detainee.

The hearing, in Baghdad, is expected to last two or three days.

Lt Col Steele, a reservist from Virginia, is also accused of improper behaviour with his Iraqi interpreter and holding unauthorised information.

Others offences include dereliction in the performance of his duties, failing to obey an order and wrongfully possessing pornographic videos.

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

The alleged offences took place between October 2005 and February 2007, US officials said. Lt Col Steele has been detained in Kuwait since his arrest in March, but was present at the hearing, held at a US military base in Baghdad.

The hearing is being conducted by a panel of military officers who will decide whether he should face a military trial.

Camp Cropper, in the west of the Iraqi capital close to Baghdad International Airport, is believed to hold more than 3,000 Iraqi prisoners.

It housed the former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, in the days leading up to his execution.

It is the latest of several scandals involving US-run jails in Iraq.

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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