Abu Ghraib abuse scandal shifts to Germany
23 August 2004 , MANNHEIM - For two days this week, the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal will move to German soil when the US Army holds pre-trial hearings on four of the accused soldiers in Mannheim in a change of venue requested by defence lawyers. The hearings in the scandal, which has enraged the Arab world and badly damaged the US reputation on human rights, take place 23 and 24 August in what the Army said is a one-time event before the hearings return to their main venue, Baghdad. Lawyers represent
23 August 2004
MANNHEIM - For two days this week, the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal will move to German soil when the US Army holds pre-trial hearings on four of the accused soldiers in Mannheim in a change of venue requested by defence lawyers.
The hearings in the scandal, which has enraged the Arab world and badly damaged the US reputation on human rights, take place 23 and 24 August in what the Army said is a one-time event before the hearings return to their main venue, Baghdad.
Lawyers representing the four soldiers in the hearings sought the venue change in citing the dangerous security situation in the Iraqi capital. Cost considerations were also cited in the request.
The four who will be questioned in Mannheim are Corporal Charles Grainer, Specialist Megan Ambuhl, Specialist Javal Davis and Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederick.
They are among the seven reservists of the 372nd Military Police Company based in Cresaptown, Maryland who have been charged in the prison-abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib.
The scandal surfaced last April with the publication of shocking pictures of the humiliating and degrading treatment of captured Iraqi soldiers in acts which officials said took place in November 2003.
One of the accused, Staff Sergeant Jeremy Sivits, was tried by a special court martial in Baghdad in May and was sentenced to a year in prison, reduction in rank and a bad conduct discharge from the military.
Sivits was the person who took the shocking photographs which showed, among others, a naked Iraqi soldier being led on a leash by a female soldier and other naked prisoners being made to form a human pyramid.
In cooperating with the military and entering a guilty plea, Sivits is expected to be key witness in the military proceedings against the others in the prisoner abuse case.
The hearings of the four soldiers in Mannheim are part of the judicial proceedings by the military known as "Article 39(a)" sessions to determine whether there are grounds for a full trial. Witnesses may be questioned and both the defence and prosecution will be allowed to submit evidence.
The four were investigated under the Uniform Code of Military Justice on a number of allegations including conspiracy, the maltreatment of prisoners, dereliction of duty for failing to protect detainees from abuse, cruelty and maltreatment, committing indecent acts, and obstruction of justice.
In addition, Grainer faces adultery charges for an alleged sexual relationship with another of the seven accused, Lynndie England. Her pre-trial hearings began August 3 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Legal analysts ahead of the hearings said they will be watching to see the strategy taken by the defence lawyers, particularly whether they will try to make a case that the accused were acting on orders from higher up the chain of command.
The Pentagon, led by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, has contended that the abuse was by enlisted-rank soldiers acting on their own in breaking the military rules of conduct.
But subsequent reports in the US media, including the New Yorker magazine, have raised questions about whether military intelligence (MI) involvement in Abu Ghraib led to the abuse of captured Iraqis in order to gain information from them.
The hearings also come while a high-level US Army inquiry led by Major General George Fay is underway to find out what went wrong at Abu Ghraib.
According to the New York Times, citing military and Pentagon officials, the Fay inquiry has found that senior US commanders had created the conditions for the abuses through a combination of lack of leadership and insufficient resources to run the prison.
The Times said the inquiry is expected to blame at least two dozen MI personnel, civilian contractors and CIA officers. Medical personnel were also cited for not reporting about the injuries suffered by Iraqi prisoners.
But the paper said that the Army inquiry had found no evidence that any military personnel above the rank of the colonel who commanded the MI unit at Abu Ghraib had any direct responsibility.
Subject: German news