Abed Hamed Mowhoush
|Abed Hamed Mowhoush|
|Native name||عبد حامد موحوش|
|Died||November 26, 2003
Al-Qa'im Detention Centre, Iraq
|Service/branch||Iraqi Air Force|
|Commands held||Iraqi Air Force|
Abed Hamed Mowhoush (Arabic "عبد حامد موحوش") was a major general / air vice-marshal believed to be in command of the Iraqi Air Force or Iraqi air defence during the regime of Saddam Hussein immediately prior to the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, until his surrender to United States forces on 10 November 2003. He died on 26 November 2003 while in U.S. custody at the Al-Qaim detention facility approximately 200 miles (320 km) northwest of Baghdad, following a 16-day period of detention that included intense beatings and the use of violent and illegal torture.
U.S. forces initially claimed that Mowhoush had been captured during a raid and that he had died of natural causes (disease), but The Washington Post later reported that he had given himself up in an effort to secure the release of his sons. Four U.S. servicemen were arrested in October 2004 in connection with the killing.
Controversy over U.S. claims
The circumstances of Mowhoush's "capture", detention and death appear to have been the subject of a campaign of misinformation by U.S. military authorities, who retracted or amended several of their initial claims.
- It was initially claimed that Mowhoush had been captured during a raid, but it was later admitted that he had voluntarily surrendered.
- Information which was initially released indicated that Mowhoush was cooperating and had revealed the names of key insurgents, but it was later admitted that he had revealed little during the period when he was well-treated and absolutely nothing after the tactics became harsh.
- Despite Mowhoush dying while being tortured, the U.S. military claimed in a news release that his death was brought about by natural causes.
According to the Washington Post:
- "Hours after Mowhoush's death in U.S. custody on 26 November 2003, military officials issued a news release stating that the prisoner had died of natural causes after complaining of feeling sick. Army psychological-operations officers quickly distributed leaflets designed to convince locals that the general had cooperated and outed key insurgents. The U.S. military initially told reporters that Mowhoush had been captured during a raid. In reality, he had walked into the Forward Operating Base "Tiger" in Qaim on 10 November 2003, hoping to speak with U.S. commanders to secure the release of his sons, who had been arrested in raids 11 days earlier." 
Investigation, arrests and trial
Mowhoush died while being interrogated by two soldiers associated with the 66th Military Intelligence Brigade. At first the official military report stated that "Mowhoush said he didn't feel well and subsequently lost consciousness". However, when the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal erupted, the Pentagon acknowledged that the autopsy report indicated that the cause of death was "asphyxia due to smothering and chest compression", and that his body showed "evidence of blunt force trauma to the chest and legs". The Pentagon added that a homicide investigation was underway.
In October 2004, four arrests were made in connection with Mowhoush's death: Chief Warrant Officer Lewis E. Welshofer Jr., and Chief Warrant Officer Jeff L. Williams, who were the two soldiers conducting the interrogation, and Sergeant First Class William J. Sommer and Specialist Jerry L. Loper from the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who were assigned to the detention facility at the time of the interrogation, and who also faced dereliction of duty charges.
According to the Washington Post:
- "Senior officers in charge of the facility near the Syrian border believed that such 'claustrophobic techniques' were approved ways to gain information from detainees, part of what military regulations refer to as a "fear up" tactic, according to military court documents."
The delay in the arrest of the accused was reportedly a result of their commanding officer, Colonel David Teeples, being reluctant to pursue charges and preferring a simple reprimand. It was not until the Denver Post ran a series of articles exposing the lenient treatment of the accused that military lawyers commenced prosecution proceedings under military law. Documents revealed during these proceedings confirmed that Mowhoush was physically abused and met his death at the hands of military interrogators:
- "It was inside the sleeping bag that the 56-year-old detainee took his last breath through broken ribs, lying on the floor beneath a U.S. soldier in Interrogation Room 6 in the western Iraqi desert. Two days before, a secret CIA-sponsored group of Iraqi paramilitaries, working with Army interrogators, had beaten Mowhoush nearly senseless, using fists, a club and a rubber hose, according to classified documents."
On January 21, 2006, an American military jury convicted Welshofer of negligent homicide in the death of Mowhoush. A military jury ordered a reprimand and forfeiture of $6,000 in pay, and restricted him to his home, office and church for two months.
- White, Josh (August 3, 2005). "Documents Tell of Brutal Improvisation by GIs". Washington Post. Retrieved October 23, 2011.
- Human Rights First; Behind the Wire: An Update to Ending Secret Detentions (2005)
- Human Rights First; Command’s Responsibility: Detainee Deaths in U.S. Custody in Iraq and Afghanistan