Local News

Prosecution Rests In Passaro Prisoner Abuse Case

Posted August 15, 2006 11:07 a.m. EDT

— Prosecutors rested their case Friday against a former CIA contractor charged with assaulting an Afghan detainee, and the defense immediately began to challenge the government's assertion the alleged beating led to the prisoner's death.

Attorneys for David Passaro, a former Special Forces medic working in Afghanistan as a CIA contractor, called Navy Cmdr. Craig Mallak as their first witness, and asked the medical examiner if he could conclude what led to the death of Abdul Wali from photos of his body and a description of his interrogation.

Timeline: David Passaro Prisoner Abuse Case

"I feel that would be insufficient information to make such a ruling," Mallak said, adding that some of the bruises and abrasions on Wali's body seen in photographs could have come from attempts to revive him on the day he died.

Passaro is accused of beating Wali during a 2003 interrogation about rocket attacks on a remote base housing U.S. and Afghan troops near Asadabad, Afghanistan. Defense attorneys have said Passaro never hit Wali, and he is not charged in the man's death.

Mallak's testimony countered that of two doctors called Friday by the government, which has charged Passaro with four counts of assault. If convicted, the 40-year-old from Lillington faces up to 40 years in prison.

Dr. Reinhard Motte, a medical examiner from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., testified Wali probably died from injuries sustained during a beating described by soldiers who witnessed the interrogation. Several Army paratroopers testified this week they saw Passaro hit Wali repeatedly with a metal flashlight and kick him in the groin.

Motte said such a beating could have ruptured an intestine and caused an infection, and broken Wali's pelvis and caused internal bleeding.

"If I were to write a death certificate on Abdul Wali, I would write blunt force abdominal and pelvic injuries," Motte said.

Dr. Anthony Meyer, the chief of surgery at the University of North Carolina hospitals, said Wali's most serious injuries "would be the two described kicks to the perineum, the area between the thighs, and the hit to the abdomen with the flashlight."

Meyer said during cross examination that he couldn't give an exact opinion about what led to Wali's death since he had viewed only 12 photos of his body and heard descriptions of his treatment.

But on further questioning from prosecutors, he said Wali "most likely died from sepsis infection or blood loss progressively over the course of two days."

Motte said during cross examination he would have preferred to have results from an autopsy, but said one wasn't performed and that Wali's body remains in Afghanistan. CIA investigator Fred Klare testified Friday that Wali's father wouldn't allow an autopsy, or even tell the Americans where his son was buried.

Passaro 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.