SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – A Muslim chaplain accused of taking classified material from the U.S. prison for terrorist suspects in Cuba was charged Tuesday by the military with adultery and storing pornography on a government computer.
The military released Army Capt. James Yee from custody and will allow him to return to duty at a base in Georgia, said Raul Duany, a spokesman for the U.S. Southern Command.
Yee will be prohibited from having contact with prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the spokesman said.
Authorities arrested Yee, 35, in September and charged him with disobeying an order for allegedly taking classified material from Guantanamo and improperly transporting it. He was one of three men who worked with prisoners at the base in Cuba to be accused of wrongdoing.
The new charges include making a false statement, storing pornography on a government computer and having sexual relations outside marriage, which violates military law.
The adultery allegedly occurred with an unspecified woman at Guantanamo and in Orlando, Fla., between July and September 2003, and the pornography was on his government-issued computer at the base in eastern Cuba, Duany told The Associated Press.
Yee, who also uses the first name Yousef, will be sent to Fort Benning, Ga., and will be assigned to the base chaplain, but his exact duties have yet to be determined, said Capt. Tom Crosson, another spokesman at the U.S. Southern Command.
Yee’s lawyer, Eugene Fidell, said he was pleased that his client was released but disappointed by the new charges.
“We’re thrilled that Chaplain Yee was released, but on the other hand, the additional charges are the kind of thing that can give military justice a bad the name, especially the adultery charge,” Fidell said.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice classifies adultery as a punishable offense, U.S. Southern Command said. No other information was provided on the pornography allegation.
Yee, a Chinese-American who converted to Islam after graduating from West Point, was arrested Sept. 10 in Jacksonville, Fla.
Federal agents said they found the native of Springfield, N.J., carrying sketches of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, where he counseled prisoners accused of links to Afghanistan’s deposed Taliban regime or the al-Qaida terror network.
Once a chaplain at Fort Lewis, Wash., Yee was charged by the military on Oct. 10 with disobeying a general order by taking classified material home and transporting it without proper security containers.
When he was arrested, rumors swirled he had been charged with espionage relating to his contact with the detainees in Guantanamo, none of whom have been charged. Some have been held for nearly two years.
His wife, Huda Suboh, 29, lives in Olympia, Wash., with their two young children. She was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday but earlier defended her husband’s innocence.
Yee will face an Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury or preliminary hearing, in Georgia.
Guantanamo officials on Tuesday declined to comment on Yee, who briefed his superiors on topics ranging from the history of Islam to insights on the rise in suicide attempts among the approximately 660 detainees being held at the bleak prison camp.
The chaplain is one of three men with contact with the terrorism suspects at Guantanamo to face charges. An Arabic translator, Air Force Senior Airman Ahmad I. al-Halabi, has pleaded innocent to charges of espionage and aiding the enemy.
A civilian interpreter, Ahmad F. Mehalba, was arrested last month in Boston and charged with lying to federal agents by denying computer discs he was carrying had classified information from Guantanamo. He also has pleaded innocent.
Yee abandoned his middle-class New Jersey neighborhood to enroll in West Point Academy where he graduated in 1990.
Soon after his graduation, Yee left the military to undergo Arabic and religious training in Syria where he spent four years.
The Army welcomed him back after his travels, and soon he became a chaplain with the 29th Signal Battalion at Fort Lewis. He was there during the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
“An act of terrorism, the taking of innocent civilian lives is prohibited by Islam, and whoever has done this needs to be brought to justice, whether he is Muslim or not,” Yee said after the attacks.
Yee arrived at Guantanamo in November of 2002.
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