Friday, June 24, 2005

Pentagon sued by U.S. soldier over Gitmo beating

Comment: Just imagine what they would do to a sheepherder?

An American soldier who was seriously beaten when he posed as a foreign detainee during a training drill at Guantanamo is suing the Pentagon for $15 million.

Special Sean Baker was medically retired from the military after he suffered a traumatic brain injury in January 2003.

The 38-year-old military policeman (MP) was assaulted after he volunteered to wear an orange jumpsuit and portray an uncooperative detainee. Baker said his fellow MPs, who were told that he was an unruly detainee who had assaulted an American sergeant, severely beat him -- leaving him with seizures, blackouts, headaches, insomnia and psychological problems.

In the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Lexington, Kentucky, Baker asked the Army to reinstate him in a position that would accommodate his medical condition. He said the Army put him on medical retirement against his wishes.

Baker is also demanding $15 million in damages.

The Pentagon had initially denied that Baker's hospitalization following the training incident was due to the beating. But later, officials conceded that he was treated for injuries suffered when a five-man MP "internal reaction force" choked him, slammed his head several times against a concrete floor and sprayed him with pepper gas.

The drill took place in a prison isolation wing reserved for suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees who are deemed to be disruptive or had attacked MPs. Baker said he put on the orange jumpsuit and squeezed under a prison bunk after being told by a lieutenant that he would be portraying an unruly detainee. He said he was assured that MPs conducting the "extraction drill" knew it was a training exercise and that Baker was an American soldier.

As he was being choked and beaten, Baker reportedly screamed a code word and shouted: "I'm a U.S. soldier! I'm a U.S. soldier!" He said the beating continued until the jumpsuit was yanked down during the struggle, revealing his military uniform.

The lawsuit says of the extraction team: "Armed with the highly inflammatory, false, incendiary and misleading information that had been loaded into their psyches by their platoon leader, these perceptions and fears... became their operative reality, and they acted upon these fears."

Baker's attorney, T. Bruce Simpson, Jr., told reporters that no one has been disciplined or punished for the assault. Last June, a military spokesman said an internal investigation in February 2003 had concluded that no one was liable for Baker's injuries. The Pentagon spokesman said training procedures at Guantanamo had been "reviewed" after the incident.


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