Lt-Col William Steele charged with aiding the enemy

US ex-commander sentenced in Iraq
US troops handle Iraqi prisoner (file photo)
Scrutiny over prisoner treatment has plagued US forces in Iraq
A US officer in Iraq has been acquitted of aiding the enemy by lending a mobile phone to a prisoner, but sentenced to two years in prison on lesser charges.

A court martial judge found former prison commander Lt-Col William Steele guilty of the illegal possession of thousands of secret military documents.

Col Steele was also convicted of behaviour unbecoming an officer and failing to obey an order.

He was dismissed from the service and will forfeit pay and allowances.

Secret papers

A prosecutor told the court that almost 12,000 secret documents were found in a search of Col Steele's living quarters in Camp Victory, the main US base in Baghdad.

The conviction of behaviour unbecoming an officer was for an alleged relationship with a female Iraqi translator.

Col Steele had pleaded innocent to these charges but guilty to three other, minor charges.

He was found not guilty of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy.

The prosecution had accused the former prison commander of lending a mobile phone to a member of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

A defence lawyer had said during hearings that the US officer was doing his job by treating the prisoners in a humane fashion.

Saddam's jailer

Col Steele was a commander at the prison where Saddam Hussein was held until his execution in December.

During pre-trial hearings the officer was also accused of supplying Cuban cigars and hair dye to the former Iraqi leader.

It was the second time a US officer is known to have been accused of aiding the enemy since the start of the war in Iraq.

After much publicity the suspect in the previous case was eventually cleared and given an honourable discharge.