US officer in Iraq guilty of holding secret papers

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BAGHDAD, Oct 19 (Reuters) A senior US military officer in Iraq was today found guilty at his court martial of illegally possessing secret documents, a crime that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years' imprisonment.

Lieutenant-Colonel William Steele, 52, a former military police commander who oversaw the detention of Saddam Hussein before the Iraqi leader's execution on December 30, was acquitted on the more serious charge of aiding the enemy.

He was also found guilty of having an inappropriate relationship with an Iraqi woman interpreter and failing to obey an order.

Earlier, prosecutor Captain Michael Rizzotti told the court that nearly 12,000 secret documents had been found in a search of Steele's living quarters at Camp Victory, the sprawling US military base in Baghdad.

''(They were) documents that if fallen into the wrong hands could be used to the injury of the United States or the advantage of a foreign nation. He did not get authority to take these documents,'' he said.

Reuters ARB GC1558

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