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Muslim chaplain faces Army hearing

Capt. James Yee, in a September 2001 photo, ministered to Islamic prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Capt. James Yee, in a September 2001 photo, ministered to Islamic prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

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A Muslim Army chaplain is answering lesser charges after an espionage case against him fizzled.
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Espionage and Intelligence
Guantanamo Bay Naval Base (Cuba)

FORT BENNING, Georgia (CNN) -- Army prosecutors begin laying out their case Monday against a Muslim chaplain once charged with espionage but now facing lesser allegations.

Capt. James Yee, who had been stationed at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is accused of mishandling classified documents, making a false statement and conduct unbecoming an officer, charges that investigators said were related to pornography allegedly found on his computer and alleged adultery with a female officer.

Six witnesses are set to testify at the hearing at Fort Benning, a large Army post at Columbus. The hearing could last two days.

Defense attorney Eugene Fidell told reporters Monday that the charges levied against his client are trivial and should be dropped immediately.

Monday's evidentiary hearing is before an investigative officer, who will recommend to the commanding general at Guantanamo Bay if Yee should face a court-martial and if so, on what charges. The officer can recommend dropping, amending or adding charges.

"We're hoping these charges, which are completely trivial and inconsequential, will go away," Fidell said. "We invited the government to just drop this proceeding immediately."

Yee -- freed November 25 after 76 days in a military brig -- accompanied Fidell, holding his 4-year-old daughter, Sarah. Yee's wife, Huda, stood silently next to him.

Yee declined to answer questions but told reporters he eventually would have a chance to speak.

The Army arrested Yee on September 10 as he arrived in Jacksonville, Florida, on leave from his duties ministering to Islamic prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The military initially charged him with espionage and sent him to the U.S. Navy's brig in Charleston, South Carolina.

The four charges now involve allegations that Yee had classified documents on his computer and lied to investigators. He also allegedly had pornography on his computer, an offense considered unbecoming of an Army officer. A fourth charge involves the allegation that Yee committed adultery with a female military officer at the Guantanamo Bay base.

Fidell criticized the military, saying officials had damaged Yee's reputation with the initial spy charge.

"I think it's quite disgraceful that this officer's reputation was tarnished in a way that can probably never be repaired because of that," Fidell said.

"I don't know how you can unring the bell on something like that. It was completely unfair. And I think it explains to some extent why we're here today on these completely inconsequential charges."

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