Local News

Doctor: Injuries To Prisoner Questioned By Passaro Not Severe

Posted August 16, 2006

— The injuries of an Afghan detainee who died after two days of questioning by a former CIA contractor can't be blamed for the man's death, a pathologist testified Tuesday.

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    David Passaro Prisoner Abuse Case

    Dr. Donald Jason, a Wake Forest University professor, was the last substantial witness to testify before lawyers for David Passaro rested their case. Passaro, 40, is accused of beating Abdul Wali during questioning about rocket attacks on a remote base where Passaro was stationed in 2003 along with U.S. and Afghan troops. Wali later died, but Passaro is not charged in his death.

    Jason said he reviewed pictures of Wali's body along with other evidence in the case. He said bruising on Wali's back was probably caused by blood settling there after his death. The two kicks to the groin that another medical expert said could have caused the prisoner's death would have left him unable to walk if they had been severe enough to kill him, but there was no evidence Wali was immobile, Jason said.

    "From what I see, I don't see anything that would have involved extreme physical pain," he said.

    His testimony was offered to contradict a government pathologist who said photos of Wali's body and testimony from guards were enough to conclude the prisoner probably died from beatings.

    Earlier in the day, Col. Michael Boardman, former chief intelligence officer for coalition forces in Afghanistan, said Passaro had been uncooperative during the investigation of Wali's death.

    "We asked if he (Passaro) would answer some questions and he declined," Boardman said.

    Boardman, testifying for the defense, said there was insufficient evidence to determine Wali's cause of death, but said he did determine that Department of Defense rules for interrogations had been violated.

    Several soldiers have testified that they saw Passaro, a former Special Forces medic working in Afghanistan as a CIA contractor, beat Wali, striking him repeatedly with a large metal flashlight and kicking him in the groin.

    "The rules had been violated rather significantly, and these soldiers were part and parcel of the violation," Boardman said. "The rules clearly prohibited striking with the fist or beating ... what we would consider torture."

    But former Army criminal investigator George Wysocki, now an IBM employee in Versailles, Ky., testified that he "determined there was no wrongdoing by the shift guards" and that the Army and the CIA had different interrogation rules.

    Wysocki spent about a week at the base, but he couldn't remember some details about the case and the defense didn't have access to his reports. During the lunch recess, defense lawyers reviewed a copy of a report given to them by the prosecutors.

    Passaro could be sentenced to up to 40 years in prison if convicted.

    He is the first American civilian charged with mistreating a detainee during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is standing trial in his home state under a provision of the USA Patriot Act allowing charges against U.S. citizens for crimes committed on land or facilities designated for use by the U.S. government.

    The trial will resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday with closing arguments and jury instructions before the 10-man, two-woman jury is sent to deliberate.

    During a conference over jury instructions at the end of court, defense lawyer Joe Gilbert indicated the defense would argue that the flashlight wasn't a dangerous weapon.

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