A Texas grand jury has charged US Vice-President
Dick Cheney for "organised criminal activity" related to alleged abuse
of private prison inmates.
The indictment says Mr Cheney - who has invested $85m (£56m) in
a company that holds shares in for-profit prisons - conspired to block
The indictment has not been seen by a judge, who could dismiss it.
Mr Cheney's spokeswoman declined to comment, saying his office had not yet received a copy of the charges.
One Texas lawyer said the charges were politically motivated.
'Conflict of interest'
The indictment was overseen by county District Attorney Juan Guerra, an outgoing prosecutor at the end of his term of office.
He cites the case of Gregorio De La Rosa, who died on 26 April, 2001 inside a private prison in Willacy County, Texas.
The grand jury in Willacy County, near the US-Mexico border,
accuses Mr Cheney of committing "at least misdemeanour assaults" of
inmates by allowing other inmates to assault them.
It said there was a "direct conflict of interest" because Mr
Cheney had influence over federal contracts awarded to prison
US grand juries weigh evidence to decide whether a case is
worthy of being sent for a full trial, before issuing formal charges
known as indictments.
The three-page indictment also alleges that former US Attorney
General Alberto Gonzales "used his position...to stop the
investigations as to the wrong doings."
The grand jury wrote that it made its decision "with great
sadness," but said they had no other choice but to indict Mr Cheney and
Mr Gonzales "because we love our country."
Several other related indictments were brought against a host
of public officials in what one lawyer called a circus act by the
outgoing prosecutor, Mr Guerra, who he said was seeking revenge in his
final weeks in office.