Court-martial gets under way for dog handler at Abu Ghraib



Opening statements are expected today in the Fort Meade court-martial of an Army dog handler charged with mistreating detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in late 2003 and early 2004.

Sgt. Santos A. Cardona, 32, could be sentenced to 16 1/2 years in a military prison if convicted. He faces charges of assault, conspiracy, cruelty and maltreatment, dereliction of duty and making a possible false statement. Another dog handler, Sgt. Michael J. Smith, was convicted in March of several counts and sentenced to six months in prison. Nine other soldiers have been convicted of abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who once ran the military's prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is expected to be called by the defense during the two-week proceedings. He would be the highest-ranking officer to testify in a court-martial related to abuses at Abu Ghraib.

Yesterday, a seven-member jury of four officers and three enlisted soldiers was selected.

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