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Jeffrey Sinclair Accuser Faces Questioning In Sexual Assault Trial

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By Colleen Jenkins

FORT BRAGG, N.C., March 10 (Reuters) - A captain, whose sexual-assault allegations against a U.S. Army general made him the focus of a rare court-martial for a high-ranking officer, will likely face tough questions from his attorneys when she takes the stand on Monday.

The woman, 34, gave a tearful account on Friday of her rocky relationship with Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair, saying the married superior officer had twice forced her to engage in oral sex when she tried to break off their secret three-year affair.

Her accusations spurred a forcible sodomy charge that could send the 51-year-old general to prison for life. Sinclair is also accused of grabbing her genitalia against her will and of having sex with her in public, charges that saw him removed from command in southern Afghanistan in 2012.

Prosecutors said Sinclair abused his power and used "lies, threats, manipulation and coercion" to keep his subordinate in the sexual relationship. The captain testified he threatened to kill her and her family if she told anyone about it.

Sinclair's military trial in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he remains on active duty, shines a light on how the military handles sexual assault complaints at a time when U.S. lawmakers are grappling with how best to curb instances of such violence in the armed forces.

The one-star general's defense lawyers are scheduled to begin their cross examination of the captain, Sinclair's key accuser, on Monday. The general denies sexually assaulting her and says the relationship was consensual, although inappropriate by military standards.

The captain's testimony last week about Sinclair's alleged violations of military law differed from her past representations, the defense said.

"She fills in the gaps," said defense attorney Richard Scheff, who has questioned the accuser's credibility. He described the version of events she gave during five hours of questioning by prosecutors on Friday as "fiction."

The defense filed a motion on Sunday asking the trial judge to reconsider their request to have the charges against Sinclair dismissed.

Sinclair's attorneys charge that politics and outside influences have improperly influenced the case, and said new email evidence disclosed by the government over the weekend supported their claim.

The general pleaded guilty last week to lesser offenses that carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and possible dismissal from the Army. (Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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