Mon, Jan 17, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Abu Ghraib abuser gets 10 years in prison

IRAQ DETAINEES US Army Specialist Charles Graner testified during the sentencing phase that he had been following orders. In Iraq, many called for a stiffer penalty

AGENCIES , FORT HOOD, TEXAS AND BAGHDAD

US Army Specialist Charles Graner walks outside the judicial center before entering for the sentencing phase of his court-martial on Saturday in Fort Hood, Texas.

PHOTO: AFP

US Army Specialist Charles Graner Jr, who grinned in photos of Iraqi prisoners being sexually humiliated but told jurors, "I didn't enjoy what I did there," was sentenced to 10 years behind bars in the first court-martial stemming from the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

In Iraq, although the trial was not widely followed, many reacted with anger at what was seen as a lenient sentence.

Graner, labeled the leader of a band of rogue guards at the Baghdad prison in late 2003, could have received 15 years.

Asked if he felt remorse after the sentence was handed down Saturday, Graner said, "There's a war on. Bad things happen."

Graner will be dishonorably discharged when his sentence is completed. He also was demoted to private and ordered to forfeit all pay and benefits.

A day after convicting him, the jury of four Army officers and six senior enlisted men deliberated about two hours to determine Graner's sentence.

Graner, who had been free prior to trial, was taken into custody after the sentence was read. He gave his mother, Irma, a big hug and his father, Charles Sr, a firm handshake before the jury foreman read the sentence.

"He's scared to death," Irma Graner said later.

Graner was accused of stacking naked prisoners in a human pyramid and later ordering them to masturbate while other soldiers took photographs. He also allegedly punched one man in the head hard enough to knock him out, and struck an injured prisoner with a collapsible metal stick.

Defense lawyer Guy Womack said his client and the six other Abu Ghraib guards charged with abuses were being scapegoated, but added that he thought the jury did its job well.

Prosecutors Major Michael Holley and Captain Chris Graveline would not speak to reporters, but they said in a joint statement, "We think it is important that the world was able to observe this court-martial."

Under military court rules, Graner's case will be automatically appealed to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals. He also could request clemency from his commanding general.

Graner did not testify during his trial, but during the sentencing phase on Saturday he took the witness stand to repeat the defense claim that the jury clearly rejected: that he had been ordered by intelligence agents at Abu Ghraib to abuse the prisoners to make them easier to interrogate.

Womack asked him why he was smiling in the infamous photos.

"I'm smiling now, and that's a nervous smile," Graner said.

Graner described himself as a by-the-book prison guard corrupted by superiors who ordered him to physically mistreat and sexually humiliate detainees.

He said he initially resisted pressure to mistreat prisoners, but his Army superiors made it clear to him that he was expected to obey the commands of the military and civilian intelligence agents who ran his part of Abu Ghraib.

Graner said a lieutenant in his unit told him: "If [military intelligence] asks you to do this, it needs to be done. They're in charge, follow their orders."

He said he now knows that those orders were unlawful, but "at the time my understanding is that they were [lawful], or I wouldn't have done them," he said.

Graner, a 36-year-old reservist from Pennsylvania, spoke for nearly three hours as an "unsworn statement," meaning he was not subject to cross-examination by prosecutors. He did not testify during his trial.

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