Trial date set for defendant in Abu Ghraib prison abuse case

Friday, October 22nd 2004, 6:55 am
By: News On 6

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ A military judge ordered a U.S. Army reservist on Friday to stand trial Jan. 7 in Baghdad for allegedly abusing Iraqi inmates at the Abu Ghraib prison.

Spc. Charles Graner Jr., 36, of Uniontown, Pa., has been charged with conspiracy to maltreat detainees, dereliction of duty, maltreatment of prisoners, assault, committing indecent acts, obstruction of justice and adultery.

The scandal broke worldwide in April with the publication of photos and video showing U.S. soldiers abusing naked Iraqis in the prison on the western outskirts of Baghdad.

Graner was photographed giving the thumbs-up sign behind a pile of naked Iraqi detainees and cocking his fist as if to punch a hooded prisoner. He has been accused of jumping on detainees as they were piled on the floor.

He also is charged with stomping the hands and bare feet of several prisoners and punching one inmate in the temple so hard he lost consciousness.

Graner's civilian defense attorney, Guy Womack, maintains that Graner was told by high-ranking soldiers to toughen up on interrogations and ``loosen up restraints.''

The judge, Col. James Pohl, set the trial date during a hearing in which he turned down a defense motion to grant immunity to several people to testify without fear of incrimination.

The list included Col. Thomas Pappas, commander of the Military Intelligence Brigade assigned to Abu Ghraib when the offenses allegedly occurred. The low-ranking soldiers charged in the case maintain they were acting on orders from Military Intelligence to ``soften up'' prisoners for interrogation.

Pohl also ordered another pretrial hearing in the Graner case to be held here Dec. 3.

Graner's adultery charge stems from a relationship with another soldier accused in the Abu Ghraib scandal, Pfc. Lynndie England. She was sent back to the United States before the scandal broke in April and gave birth to Graner's son this month at Fort Bragg, N.C.

The judge also is expected to decide on a trial date for Sgt. Javal Davis, who has also been charged in the abuses, later Thursday.

Graner and Davis are among seven members of the 372nd Military Police Company of Cresaptown, Md., charged in the scandal. Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits of Hyndman, Pa., already is serving a one-year sentence after pleading guilty in May.

On Thursday, Staff Sgt. Ivan ``Chip'' Frederick, 38, of Buckingham, Va., was sentenced to eight years in prison for his role in abusing and humiliating Iraqi detainees.

Frederick, the highest-ranking soldier charged, received the stiffest punishment so far in the scandal.

Last month, Spc. Armin Cruz, 24, a military intelligence soldier, was sentenced to eight months in prison, a reduction in rank and a dishonorable discharge for his part in the scandal.