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Context of 'October 2003: Iraqi Air Force General Turns Himself in to US Authorities'

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Iraqi Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush, who previously headed Saddam Hussein’s air force, turns himself in for questioning. He is sent to the Al Qaim detention facility northwest of Baghdad. (Moffeit 5/18/2004; Human Rights Watch 6/2004)

Iraqi Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush is questioned by “other governmental agency officials” (In military parlance, this means the CIA) and possibly beaten. (Human Rights Watch 6/2004)

Abed Hamed Mowhoush.Abed Hamed Mowhoush. [Source: New York Times]At the Al Qaim detention facility northwest of Baghdad, Iraqi Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush is interrogated by two officers of the 66th Military Intelligence Company. They force him head-first into a sleeping bag and question him as they roll him back and forth. One of the soldiers, Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer, sits on the Iraqi general’s chest and covers his mouth. (Human Rights Watch 6/2004) The prisoner dies of asphyxia due to smothering and chest compression. (Moffeit 5/18/2004) Later in the day, US military officials issue a statement saying that a prisoner has died of natural causes during questioning. “Mowhoush said he didn’t feel well and subsequently lost consciousness,” the statement reads. “The soldier questioning him found no pulse, then conducted CPR and called for medical authorities. According to the on-site surgeon, it appeared Mowhouse died of natural causes.” (Moffeit 5/18/2004; Jehl and Schmitt 5/22/2004) But the autopsy report will say there is “evidence of blunt force trauma to the chest and legs.” (Human Rights Watch 6/2004) The incident is investigated and a report is issued in early 2004 (see Late January 2004).

The final report of an investigation into the death of Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush (see November 26, 2003) is completed. It concludes that Mowhoush died from asphyxia after being suffocated and sat upon by his interrogators. It also reveals that approximately 24 to 48 hours before his death, he was questioned by “other governmental agency officials.” Statements suggest that he was beaten during that interrogation, the report says. (Moffeit 5/18/2004; Human Rights Watch 6/2004) The interrogating soldiers are subsequently reprimanded and barred from conducting further interrogations. (Moffeit 5/18/2004)

Four US soldiers are charged with murdering an Iraqi major general in their custody. Almost a year ago, Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush died during an interrogation at a base near Qaim, in western Iraq. Mowhoush was smothered to death (see November 26, 2003). The four soldiers are Chief Warrant Officers Jefferson L. Williams and Lewis E. Welshofer, Jr., Sergeant First Class William J. Sommer, and Specialist Jerry L. Loper. All are charged with murder and dereliction of duty. Williams, Welshofer, and Sommer were members of the 66th Military Company, a unit of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. Loper was a member of the regiment’s Support Squadron, and assigned to helicopter maintenance. Only Welshofer has training in interrogation practices. Mowhoush, allegedly a high-ranking member of the anti-American insurgency, surrendered to US forces two weeks before his death. The Pentagon initially reported his death as due to “natural causes,” but now admits Mowhoush was tortured to death. “General Mowhoush was allegedly placed in a sleeping bag and then bound to prevent his movement,” a Pentagon report says. “One of the warrant officers [Welshofer] reportedly sat on his chest and continued the interrogation. General Mowhoush was then rolled over, and the warrant officer sat on his back.” Mowhoush died in that position. A medical examination proved that he had died of asphyxiation. Other documents later show that Mowhoush had a bag pulled over his head, the bag was wrapped tightly with electrical cords, and he was beaten and kicked by a crowd of interrogators and officials (see January 19, 2006). Regiment commander Colonel David Teeples says of the charges, “There is no evidence, there is no proof.” Much of the evidence presented in the case is classified and may not ever be made public. “If there are witnesses or documents that would disclose classified information, the trial is closed for those portions,” says retired Air Force Colonel Skip Morgan, a former military judge. (Roeder 10/5/2004) The murder charge against Sommer will later be dropped. Williams and Loper will make plea agreements in return for their testimony against Welshofer. (Foster 1/17/2006) Welshofer will be convicted, but will not serve jail time or even be discharged from the Army (see January 24, 2006).


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