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Ex-CIA contractor sentenced to prison Print

 By ELIZABETH DUNBAR, Associated Press Writer - Feb. 13, 2007

A former CIA contract employee was sentenced Tuesday to nearly 8 1/2 years in prison for beating an Afghan detainee who later died.

David Passaro, 40, was accused of hitting Abdul Wali with a flashlight and kicking him in the groin during a two-day interrogation at a remote military base in Afghanistan in July 2003. Wali died within 48 hours of the interrogation, after complaining of abdominal pain and an inability to urinate.

Passaro was the first American civilian charged with mistreating a detainee during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was found guilty last year of assault and could have gotten 11 1/2 years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle sentenced Passoro to eight years and four months, and has said that a lack of an autopsy probably kept Passaro from being charged with murder.

Defense attorney Joe Gilbert argued his client should be given a lighter sentence because of his military service and because the death happened in a hostile nation during war time.

Prosecutors said Wali, an Afghan farmer, came forward after learning he had been implicated in rocket attacks on a military base in Afghanistan.

The local governor, Said Akbar, wrote to the judge last week, saying Wali's death had become a tool for terrorist recruiting and was "a huge setback for Afghanistan's national reconciliation efforts."

Passaro told the judge he was only trying to do his job well, but regretted how he treated Wali.

"He is a human being," Passaro said. "I failed him. If I could go back and change things, it would have never happened. I wish I had never gone in to talk to him."

At the trial, prosecutors argued Passaro used several harsh techniques to pressure Wali about the rocket attacks during questioning in a dark and hot mud-walled cell. Wali repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

Passaro put Wali in a series of "stress positions," according to prosecutors.

Several witnesses testified they saw Passaro beat Wali with a metal flashlight and his fists. Two interrogation sessions ended with Passaro kicking Wali in the groin, once with enough force to lift the prisoner off the ground. 

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