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Last Updated: Friday, 18 June, 2004, 13:28 GMT 14:28 UK
American faces Afghan death trial
David Passaro. Archive picture
Passaro is alleged to have repeatedly beat the inmate
A US contractor who worked for the CIA in Afghanistan has been arrested and charged over the death of a prisoner last year.

David Passaro is accused of repeatedly beating Abdul Wali while interrogating him at a US base in the north of the country over two days last June.

The Afghan prisoner died the day after the alleged beatings in his cell.

The Afghan authorities have welcomed the court charges, describing them as a "good example".


Mr Passaro faces two charges of assault, and two charges of assault with a dangerous weapon against Mr Wali.

Mr Wali surrendered voluntarily to US forces last June near the border with Pakistan.

It is alleged that Mr Passaro repeatedly beat him with his hands, his feet and a large flashlight over two days while trying to find out if he was involved in rocket attacks aimed at US forces.

Almost a year to the day after Mr Wali's death, the charges against the contractor were announced by the US Attorney General, John Ashcroft, at a news conference.

He said the fact that Mr Passaro would now stand trial for Mr Wali's death showed that the US would not tolerate the abuse of prisoners.

Mr Passaro faces a sentence of up to 40 years in prison and a maximum fine of US$1m if found guilty of the charges.

Mr Passaro's lawyer, Gerald Beaver, quoted in the New York Times, said, "the events did not happen".

"He [Passaro] claims innocence."

The Bush administration says such cases are rare.

But this comes on top of photos from Iraq showing prisoners being terrorised and sexually humiliated by US soldiers and allegations that similar abuses are being carried out in Afghanistan, Guantanamo and in other countries which routinely use torture.

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