Reservist's trial date set in Abu Ghraib case

Investigators say Graner was ringleader in abuse

October 23, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

An American military judge ordered an Army reservist yesterday to stand trial on Jan. 7 in Baghdad on charges related to the Abu Ghraib prison abuse case.

The judge, Col. James A. Pohl, set the date for Charles A. Graner Jr.'s appearance in court. Among the charges against him are conspiracy to maltreat subordinates, dereliction of duty, adultery, maltreatment of detainees and obstruction of justice, according to a pool report quoting the charge sheet.

Graner, who served in the Maryland-based 372nd Military Police Company, has emerged as a central figure in the abuse scandal involving Abu Ghraib.

During the hearing, Pohl also ruled out a defense request to grant immunity to witnesses who otherwise would not testify for fear of self-incrimination.

The defense said it wanted to call as a witness Col. Thomas Pappas, the head of the military intelligence brigade assigned to Abu Ghraib at the time of the incidents last fall, according to a pool report on the hearing today.

Graner's lawyer, Guy Womack, said that his client believed he had been acting lawfully, the pool report said. "The orders had been given to him by his superiors in the military police chain of command, military intelligence and civilian intelligence," Womack said.

Investigators have called Graner a ringleader of the seven military police officers accused of torturing prisoners and photographing them. Among other things, he is accused of ordering prisoners to masturbate in front of each other and of punching an Iraqi so hard in the head that he lost consciousness. If found guilty, he faces a maximum sentence of up to 24 1/2 years in prison and a dishonorable discharge.

On Thursday, the military court handed down the harshest sentence yet in the abuse hearings when it sentenced Staff Sgt. Ivan L. Frederick II to eight years in prison for abusing Iraqi prisoners last year at Abu Ghraib. Two others have been convicted.

Pohl also reduced Frederick's rank to private and ordered him dishonorably discharged. The sergeant had originally been sentenced to 10 years in prison, but that term was reduced to eight years through a plea bargain that also calls for forfeiture of pay. The bargain requires Frederick to cooperate in the pending cases.

Also on Thursday, the Army said it began an Article 32 hearing - the equivalent of a civilian pretrial hearing - in the case of Staff Sgt. Jonathan J. Alban, who is being investigated on charges of premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

An Army investigator testified that, based on eyewitness accounts, Alban, his platoon leader and another staff sergeant in the platoon reportedly decided to kill a severely injured Iraqi man in a burning truck on Aug. 17.

The victim was at the site of a firefight between soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division and Iraqis who were allegedly trying to plant roadside bombs in the hostile Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, the prosecutor said.

Alban and his two colleagues decided to put the Iraqi "out of his misery," the investigator said, and eyewitnesses testified they saw the sergeant fire multiple rounds into the man with his rifle.

Alban is a member of Company C, 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry, of the 1st Cavalry Division, which is charged with controlling Baghdad. Another soldier faces the same charges. The court will decide if the case will go to trial. If convicted, Alban would receive a minimum sentence of life in prison and a maximum sentence of death.

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