Army reservist acquitted in last trial in Afghanistan abuse case |

Army reservist acquitted in last trial in Afghanistan abuse case

FORT BLISS, Texas – A military jury deliberated for only 15 minutes Thursday before acquitting the last of 11 Army reservists from an Ohio unit who had been charged with abusing prisoners at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.Sgt. Alan J. Driver kissed a photo album with pictures of his children after the verdict was read. He was the fifth of 11 soldiers from the Cincinnati-based 377th MP Company to be cleared of abusing detainees.Driver was accused of being one of several soldiers who beat a detainee known as Habibullah, who the Army says died of his injuries. Driver was also accused of throwing a shackled and handcuffed prisoner, Omar al-Farouq, against a wall.”I just did my job,” Driver said after hugging his wife and parents. “We were put in a difficult situation with minimal training and did the best with what we had.”Driver’s attorney, Capt. Michael Waddington, had argued that prosecution witnesses had no credibility.He showed jurors a receipt indicating that al-Farouq, a former al-Qaida operative, was released from the jail in good condition on Sept. 20, before the time prosecutors alleged Driver threw him against a wall.”All we have is clouded memories, completely differing accounts of what happened,” Waddington told the jury.Capt. John B. Parker, the prosecutor, stressed that the case was about abuse of authority.”It’s not a question of confusion. It’s not a question of fog of war. It’s two specific incidents where a soldier went over the line,” Parker said.Prosecutors struggled with wobbly witnesses and little evidence. During the only day of testimony, one member of the 377th MP Company said it was not uncommon for MPs to forcefully wake sleeping detainees, and another testified he never saw Driver mistreat anyone.The investigation was launched shortly after Habibullah and another man known as Dilawar died within days of each other in Bagram in December 2002. No one has been prosecuted for the detainees’ deaths, though both cases were ruled homicides and the Army claims the men were beaten to death at the jail.Only one soldier from Driver’s unit was convicted by an Army jury, and he was spared jail time. Two pleaded guilty to assault and went to prison before being kicked out of the Army. Charges against three others were dropped in part because investigators in some pretrial hearings found no evidence of wrongdoing.Driver’s mother, Lori Marsh, was relieved by Thursday’s verdict but still astonished that her son was prosecuted.”You just never expect to have to fight for your son against your government,” Marsh said with tears in her eyes.Parker and other prosecutors declined to comment after the verdict.Vail, Colorado

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