Mon, Dec 06, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Former commander must testify in Abu Ghraib case

AP , FORT HOOD, TEXAS

A military judge has ordered the former commander of US prisons in Iraq to testify at the trial of a soldier who says his superiors condoned the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib.

The judge, Colonel James Pohl, said Saturday that Brigadier General Janis Karpinski's testimony at the trial of Sargeant Javal Davis would be limited to conditions at Abu Ghraib and the interaction there between guards and military interrogators. Karpinski is the highest-level official ordered to testify in the scandal.

Davis has acknowledged stepping on the fingers and toes of detainees, but told investigators that military intelligence personnel appeared to approve.

"We were told they had different rules," he said, according to an Army report.

Pohl's decision during a pretrial hearing came as the Navy said it was investigating new photographs that appear to show Navy SEALs in Iraq sitting on hooded and handcuffed detainees. Other photos show what appear to be bloodied prisoners, one with a gun to his head.

Karpinski had denied knowing about any mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib until photographs were made public at the end of April showing hooded and naked prisoners being tormented by their US captors. She was relieved of her command after abuses at the prison came to light.

In an interview with the AP, Karpinski said a "conspiracy" among top US commanders left her to blame for the abuses. A report issued by an independent panel of nongovernment experts blamed Karpinski for leadership failures that "helped set the conditions at the prison which led to the abuses."

Her attorney, Neal Puckett, said Saturday afternoon that he had not been notified of Pohl's order. But he said Karpinski, who is now in the Army Reserves, gave a deposition in an earlier case.

"She's always been willing to cooperate in any investigation. There's be no reason for her not to testify," he said.

Davis is among seven members of the 372nd Military Police Company charged with humiliating and assaulting prisoners at the Baghdad prison.

Davis faces charges including conspiracy to maltreat detainees, assault, dereliction of duty and lying in official statements. He has denied hurting prisoners but said he was ordered to "soften them up." If convicted on all counts, he faces eight years in a military prison.

Pretrial hearings at Fort Hood on Saturday for Davis and Specialist Sabrina Harman were originally scheduled to begin next year in Baghdad. No reason was given for the decision to move the trials to the US.

Paul Bergrin, a lawyer representing Davis, said Saturday that his client's behavior was not unreasonable given the conditions he worked and lived under at Abu Ghraib: long hours, oppressive heat, frequent mortar attacks by insurgents and pressure from higher-ups to obtain useful information from detainees.

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