2 more in Md. unit face court-martial

Army charges sergeants with dereliction of duty in abuses at Abu Ghraib

Crisis In Iraq

May 13, 2004|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The Army announced yesterday that two more soldiers from a Maryland military police company are to be court-martialed at public trials related to the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison.

Sgts. Javal S. Davis, 26, who attended Morgan State University, and Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick II, 37, each face five counts, including dereliction of duty and failing to protect detainees from abuse and cruelty.

Frederick, a corrections officer in central Virginia, also is charged with assault and committing an indecent act, and stands accused of watching inmates forced to simulate oral sex.

Three of the seven soldiers charged with abuses depicted in graphic photographs have been ordered to face courts-martial. Army officials released charge sheets yesterday for Frederick, Davis and Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits, 24, whose court-martial is to begin next week in the Baghdad Convention Center. No dates have been set for the trials of Frederick and Davis.

The documents provide few new details of mistreatment, but spell out the roles some of the soldiers are accused of playing. The documents date some of the abuses depicted in the photographs to Nov. 8.

The charge sheets accuse Frederick of forcing inmates to fight, jumping atop a human pyramid of naked inmates and using a closed fist to strike a prisoner in the chest "with a means of force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm."

Sivits is to be tried in what is called a special court-martial, with penalties limited to a year in jail and a bad conduct discharge. Frederick and Davis face general courts-martial, which allow harsher punishment.

Sivits, according to his charge sheet, escorted a prisoner to the pyramid and took a photograph. Frederick and Davis are charged with more serious abuses.

Yesterday, Maj. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, expressed regret anew over the abuses at Abu Ghraib and for the first time hinted that supervisors could be held accountable.

"An apology is not enough," he said. "There will be more than apologies. We have soldiers right now who are facing criminal charges. We have numerous people in the supervisory chain who are going to potentially lose their careers."

Frederick's family mounted a public campaign to portray him as a scapegoat of military intelligence officers who coaxed military police to soften up detainees for interrogation. Family members invited dozens of reporters into their homes, rarely turned down a request for an interview, and launched a Web site, www.freechipfrederick.com, where visitors can buy bumper stickers.

But the family withdrew from the spotlight this week. A voice-mail message yesterday at his father's house in Garrett County said: "We are no longer doing interviews with the media."

His mother, JoAnn Frederick, who lives nearby, said by phone: "We have been advised not to talk. No one's giving interviews or talking about the case right now."

His lawyer, Gary Myers, did not return a phone call yesterday.

Frederick's uncle, Bill Lawson, said last week that his nephew and his subordinates were doing what they thought was expected of them.

"It doesn't make any sense that these six people were the ones that came up with this photographic plan," Lawson said. "At worst, Chip is guilty of being naive, a little bit stupid, by following orders and taking photographs. But stupidity and naivete is not against the law."

Davis' wife, Zeenethia, did not return a phone message yesterday.

His father, Jonathan Davis, told reporters last week that his son is innocent.

According to university officials, Davis earned 29 credits at Morgan State and last took classes in the fall of 1997.

Reached yesterday at his home in Roselle, N.J., he said, "I don't know what to tell you. I don't know, I don't know," then hung up.

Announcements of the courts-martial came as the Pentagon was being pressed by Congress to determine who actually ran Abu Ghraib when the abuses occurred, military intelligence officers who interrogated detainees or the general in charge of military police at the prison.

An Army investigative report blames the problems on a breakdown in command at the brigade level. But critics say that a Nov. 19 order that effectively put military intelligence officers in charge opened the door to the abusive practices.

Kimmitt said yesterday that the order gave intelligence officers "tactical control" over prisoners. He said that did not give them "command oversight" that would have allowed them to order military police to prepare prisoners for interrogation.

The accused soldiers, all members of the 372nd Military Police Company, a reserve unit based near Cumberland, have said through lawyers and in e-mail, diaries and letters that they were ordered by military intelligence agents and private contractors to mistreat prisoners to, as one put it, "soften them up" for questioning.

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