Wed, Aug 29, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Jury deliberates in Abu Ghraib trial


Jurors began deliberations on Monday at the court-martial of the only US military officer charged in the Abu Ghraib detainee abuse scandal, after the defense accused a witness of lying on the stand to deflect blame from himself.

Army Lieutenant Colonel Steven Jordan, 51, never appeared in the inflammatory photos of US soldiers with naked and abused detainees at Abu Ghraib, but he was the highest ranking officer at the Iraq prison at the time and was accused of fostering the abuse.

During closing arguments, Jordan's lawyer took aim at one of the government's top witnesses, saying Major Donald Reese falsely testified that Jordan condoned prisoner nudity as an interrogation technique.

Reese commanded the 372 Military Police Company in Iraq.

"Major Reese is not telling the truth," defense attorney Major Kris Poppe said, citing contradictory testimony by others. "To deflect blame is a time-honored tradition and that's what he did."

Reese's testimony last Tuesday was some of the government's strongest evidence supporting a charge that Jordan willfully failed to train, supervise and ensure that soldiers under his control followed interrogation rules.

The jury of nine colonels and a brigadier general deliberated for about four-hours-and-a half on Monday afternoon before recessing.

Jordan faces four charges -- the most serious of which is that he disobeyed Major General George Fay's order not to discuss Fay's Abu Ghraib investigation with others.

Jordan also is charged with failing to obey a regulation by ordering dogs to be used for interrogations without higher approval; cruelty and maltreatment for allegedly subjecting detainees to forced nudity and intimidation by dogs; and dereliction of a duty to properly train and supervise soldiers in interrogation rules.

The charges carry a combined sentence of eight-and-a-half years if he is convicted on all the counts.

In closing arguments earlier on Monday, a prosecutor said that Jordan was not being court-martialed for what he did during his brief assignment as director of the Abu Ghraib interrogation center -- but for what he did not do.

"It's about what he divorced himself from doing," Lieutenant Colonel John Tracy said. "He didn't train. He didn't supervise."

Tracy reminded the panel repeatedly that Jordan was the senior officer at Abu Ghraib in September and October 2003, when witnesses said they observed detainees naked and handcuffed in their cells.

Tracy said Jordan was the senior officer inside a prison cellblock on Nov. 24, 2003, during at least part of an episode that ended with a dog brought in to intimidate a detainee being questioned in his cell.

Jordan is the only officer among the 12 people charged in the scandal and the last to go to trial. Eleven enlisted soldiers have been convicted.

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