Thu, Jan 13, 2005 - Page 7 News List

US detainees in Iraq testify in Abu Ghraib abuse trial


A Syrian insurgent held at Abu Ghraib prison testified by video on Tuesday that Army Specialist Charles Graner merrily whistled, sang and laughed while brutalizing him, and forced him to eat pork and drink alcohol in violation of his Muslim faith.

An Iraqi detainee later told the court that he was among a group of prisoners stripped by Graner and other Abu Ghraib guards, stacked up naked in a human pyramid while female soldiers watched, and later told to masturbate.

"I couldn't imagine it in the beginning," Hussein Mutar, the Iraqi, said when asked how he felt during the alleged mistreatment. "I could kill myself because no one over there was stopping it from happening."

The prosecution rested after Mutar's video testimony.

Graner's defense case was scheduled to begin yesterday.

His lawyers have maintained that Graner and other soldiers had no choice but to obey orders given by military and civilian intelligence officers to soften up detainees to get them ready for questioning.

Amin al-Sheikh, the Syrian prisoner, testified that Graner threatened more than once to kill him and on one occasion told him to thank Jesus for keeping him alive.

The inmate also said he listened through his cell wall as Graner and other Americans forced a Yemeni prisoner to eat from a toilet.

Whistling, singing

Asked if Graner appeared to enjoy hurting him, al-Sheikh said through an interpreter: "He laughed. He was whistling. He was singing."

He described Graner as the "primary torturer" and "a naturally aggressive man" -- a characterization that led Graner, sitting in the courtroom, to roll his eyes and chuckle.

Graner is the first soldier accused in the Abu Ghraib scandal to go on trial. Prosecutors allege the Army reservist was the ringleader of the abuse. Three fellow guards from the 372nd Military Police Company have pleaded guilty to abusing detainees.

Graner is charged with conspiracy, assault, committing indecent acts and other offenses. He could receive a sentence of up to 17 1/2 years in a military prison if found guilty by a jury of four Army officers and six enlisted men.

Al-Sheikh said he went to Iraq in 2003 to fight US-led forces, and he was taken to Abu Ghraib after being captured with AK-47 assault rifles, grenades and bomb-making material.

While being held at a tent camp next to Abu Ghraib, al-Sheikh said, he was wounded in the leg and chest in a shootout with Americans after he obtained a handgun from an Iraqi guard.

alleged abuse

Al-Sheikh said he was later sent to Abu Ghraib, where Graner jumped on his wounded leg and struck it with a collapsible metal stick.

Another time, he said, Graner handcuffed him to his cell door with his arms behind his back for eight hours.

Al-Sheikh testified that Graner also accompanied a US soldier who urinated on him, and that Graner was present when another American threatened to rape him.

Speaking outside court after the video testimony, Graner said he remembered al-Sheikh: "The last time I saw him, he was threatening to kill me."

Under defense questioning, al-Sheikh said Graner at times worked with Americans who were interrogating him at Abu Ghraib. He said interrogators known as "Steve" and "Mikey" made it clear that he would be roughed up by Graner if he did not cooperate.

Defense attorney Guy Womack said al-Sheikh's testimony was good for his client.

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