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Tuesday, August 03, 2004  

News: Soldier says Americans abused Iraqis for 'fun'

American military personnel who abused Iraqi prisoners did it "just for fun," an Army investigator testified Monday. He was explaining the context of the abuse in a hearing to determine whether Pfc. Lynndie England should be bound over for trial. You may recall that England is the young woman photographed holding one prisoner on a leash and pointing at another's genitals.

The Associated Press reports.

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) - Prosecutors portrayed Pfc. Lynndie England as an out-of-control soldier who mocked Iraqi prisoners in photos ``just for fun,'' seeking Tuesday to discredit claims that she was following orders when she abused detainees at Abu Ghraib prison.

On the first day of a hearing to determine whether England should be court-martialed for her actions at the prison, witnesses testified that the naked detainees shown with her in human pyramids and tethered to a leash were common criminals of little or no value to interrogators, abused only for sport.

An Army investigator, Paul Arthur, testified that when he interviewed England about the photos three months before they became public, she told him they were taken while ``they were joking around, having some fun, during the night shift.''

England has told the press that she and other soldiers accused of mistreating inmates at Abu Ghraib were ordered to do so by superiors. She claims that instead of being evidence of petty and vicious behavior, photographs and videos of the abuse are part of a planned scheme to elicit useful information from prisoners. However, the consensus among persons in positions to know is that most of the prisoners had been arrested casually, and, did not possess information useful to prevent terrorist attacks in Iraq and elsewhere. Many of the detainees have since been released without ever having been charged.

The assaults on Iraqi prisoners, some of them of a sexual nature, had been known to American military and political leaders months before they were leaked to the media. In the aftermath, Arabs and Muslims worlwide reacted with outrage, perceiving the material as revealing dehumanizing, and possibly racist attitudes, toward them by Americans. Terrorists who have kidnapped, and on two occassions, beheaded foreigners in Iraq, have cited the abuse of Iraqi prisoners as justification.

Defenders of England say she is being made a scapegoat. However, evidence offered at the Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a grand jury inquiry, was not favorable to her. The prisoners involved are not persons who were sources of intelligence. Arthur testified that England never mentioned turning the images over to military intelligence to be used in interrogations of other prisoners, as has been claimed by her lawyers. Furthermore, England, who was not a prison guard, but a clerk, had been told that she had no official reason to be in the area where she posed for and took pictures of Iraqi detainees being abused.

England is charged with 13 counts of abusing detainees and six counts stemming from possession of sexually explicit photos which the Army has said do not depict Iraqis. The maximum possible sentence is 38 years in prison.

. . .He [Arthur] said England claimed to have gotten permission from military intelligence to ``rough up'' a couple of rape suspects, but later noted she was the only member of the 372nd to tell him of the orders by military intelligence.

England is one of seven reservists from the 372nd who have been charged in the scandal. One, Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits, has already pleaded guilty and been sentenced to a year in prison.

To bolster their claim that the military and political elite are responsible for the prison abuses, the defense added Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to their witness list. Their efforts to obtain testimony from the two were rejected.

The hearing will continue tomorrow.

Reasonably related

•We last considered the role of Lynndie England in "The face of Iraqi prisoner abuse."

•One of the military's highest ranking women has been demoted because of the Iraqi inmate abuse scandal.

3:45 PM