Wed, Jun 23, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Abizaid, Sanchez to take the stand in Abu Ghraib trial


Two defendants in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal won the right on Monday to question top US generals to bolster their arguments.

The order, issued by a military judge at pretrial hearings, compels Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the top US commander in Iraq and General John Abizaid, chief of the US Central Command, to give depositions in the case.

Lawyers for the defendants, Specialist Charles Graner and Sergeant Javal Davis, dispute allegations that their clients were involved in illegal torture. The lawyers insist their clients were following orders, despite a host of precedents indicating that such a claim would not justify participation in the torture of prisoners.

"The lack of courage to disregard a criminal order, or a mistaken fear that you could be court-martialed for disobedience ... is not a defense to a charge of murder, pillage or any other war crime," the US Army's Law of Land Warfare training manual says.

The defense will also have access to Major General Geoffrey Miller, who was in charge of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp. Others who could be questioned include Lieutenant General Thomas Metz, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, and Major General Barbara Fast, chief of coalition intelligence operations.

The US Army also scheduled the military equivalent of a grand jury hearing for Specialist Sabrina Harman, the US command said yesterday. The session will determine if she will face court martial. Harman is one of seven defendants accused of abusing prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison.

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