Abu Ghraib judge rules outRumsfeld as witness

24th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

24 August 2004, MANNHEIM - A US Army judge delivered two setbacks Tuesday to a soldier accused in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse case, currently being held in the German city of Mannheim, by rejecting defence motions, including one seeking Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as a witness. The motion had been presented by defence counsel for Sergeant Javal Davis, one of four accused soldiers whose cases were being reviewed in pretrial hearings at the US Army Legal Services Agency at Taylor Barracks in Mannh

24 August 2004

MANNHEIM - A US Army judge delivered two setbacks Tuesday to a soldier accused in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse case, currently being held in the German city of Mannheim, by rejecting defence motions, including one seeking Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as a witness.

The motion had been presented by defence counsel for Sergeant Javal Davis, one of four accused soldiers whose cases were being reviewed in pretrial hearings at the US Army Legal Services Agency at Taylor Barracks in Mannheim.

Presiding judge Colonel James Pohl, besides rejecting the Rumsfeld motion, had earlier rejected the defence's motion trying to get Davis' initial testimony be thrown out due to alleged procedural irregularities.

Paul Bergrin, the civilian lawyer leading Davis' defence, had argued that there were direct links between a memorandum of November 2002 initialled by Rumsfeld about tougher interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay and the alleged prisoner abuse practices which began nearly a year later at Abu Ghraib.

Bergrin said there was more than a "coincidence" at play and that the abuse at Abu Ghraib could not be blamed on "only seven rogue soldiers", but rather that there were links to the "highest levels of the US government".

"We need to interview Donald Rumsfeld," Bergrin insisted. "What he said may have led to the charges in this case."

But judge Pohl, in rejecting the motion, said the defence had failed to provide sufficient factual evidence to prove the links asserted by Bergrin.

However, Pohl said the court would consider later evidence submitted by the defence to argue for calling in Rumsfeld as a witness.

At a press conference during recess, Bergrin reiterated the defence's insistence that there were direct links between Rumsfeld and the methods employed at Abu Ghraib to obtain information from Iraqi prisoners.

Bergrin also said that Davis "fully accepts responsibility" for his acts at Abu Ghraib - his client had admitted to jumping on a pile of detainees and physically striking prisoners - but that he was doing so on the orders from above and was therefore what he had done was "not illegal".

Earlier, Pohl denied the defence motion for the military not to admit an initial four-page written testimony by Davis as evidence. In that testimony, he had denied any wrongdoing while implicating many others in the prisoner abuse practices. He later then said this was not honest.

"I was honest about everything except what I had done," Davis told army prosecutor Major Michael Holly in what became a key statement during the morning hearings.

Bergrin had argued that Davis had not voluntarily waived his rights when providing his initial testimony and so the evidence should not be admitted if the army decides on court martial proceedings.

"(Sgt. Davis) was tired and fatigued," Bergrin said, summing up the conditions after the accused had spent a 14-hour work shift in a guard tower before a CID agent then spent several hours interrogating him and getting the statement.

But Pohl denied the defence motion trying to suppress the detailed statement, saying the evidence presented had shown that Davis was an experienced military and civilian policeman who understood the waiver rights process and had voluntarily done so.

Davis is the third soldier under review at the hearings, to be followed later by Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederick. On Monday, Specialists Charles Graner and Megan Ambuhl went before the court.

He is charged with a number of offences, including cruelty and maltreatment, conspiracy, and dereliction of duty.

Rumsfeld is the second top-ranking Washington official whose testimony was being sought in the Abu Ghraib case. In the hearings for Private Lynndie England at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, her lawyers submitted a motion to get Vice President Donald Cheney as a witness. The judge in that hearing, Colonel Denise Arn, said she would study the request. 

DPA

Subject: German news
 

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