Probe Into Iraqi Prison Scandal Widens | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 25.08.2004
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Probe Into Iraqi Prison Scandal Widens

One of the US soldiers accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners will plead guilty, it emerged during pre-trial hearings in Germany. Separately, an independent US report also blamed top-level Pentagon officials for the scandal.

An infamous image that came to represent the horrors at Abu Ghraib

An infamous image that came to represent the horrors at Abu Ghraib

The pre-trial hearings of four US soldiers accused of mistreating Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad concluded at a US military base in Mannheim, Germany on Tuesday. On the second day of the two-day hearings the spotlight was on whether the soldiers' superiors in the US army were jointly responsible for the abuses that have sparked worldwide anger and condemnation.

The lawyers for the soldiers accuse the US military leadership of ordering the abuses and torture in order to soften the Iraqi detainees and make them more willing to talk during interrogations.

Charles Graner vor Gericht

A courtroom drawing shows Specialist Charles Graner, right, with his lawyers.

The lawyer for one of the soldiers, Specialist Charles Graner, said on Tuesday that the US soldiers at Abu Ghraib were simply following orders and that making prison inmates strip naked and humiliating them were widely used interrogation methods.

"The US government must admit that the military intelligence agency, the CIA and others ordered the soldiers to do these things," he said. "There are photographs where these intelligence officers are seen. There is no doubt that high-ranking military officers and CIA agents knew what was happening and even ordered it themselves."

High-level military officers to the stand

Chief Prosecutor Major Michael Holly told the court two low-ranking soldiers from a military intelligence unit who "we believe are co-conspirators" would probably be charged soon.

US military judge James Pohl said on Tuesday that he wanted to call high-ranking US military officials and key intelligence officers to testify unless the US government charges them. He however refused to order US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to talk to lawyers about prisoner interrogation policy.

Earlier Judge Pohl also condemned the delays and slow pace of US government investigations into the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal.

Guilty as charged

On Tuesday, Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederick, the highest-ranking US soldier accused of abusing prisoners, acknowledged his role in the scandal.

His lawyer, Gary Meyers said Frederick had decided to do the "honest and dignified thing" and hoped others among the accused would step forward too. "He's taking responsibility for certain acts," Meyers said, adding that an agreement had been reached with prosecutors to drop other charges against him at a hearing on October 20 in Baghdad.

Frederick is charged with maltreating detainees, conspiracy to maltreat detainees, dereliction of duty and committing an indecent act.

"Chaos at Abu Ghraib"

Separately, an independent commission in Washington probing the Abu Ghraib prison scandal presented a damning indictment of the Pentagon's role in the affair.

While the blame mainly lies with the American soldiers who ran the notorious jail, senior commanders and top-level Pentagon officials including Rumsfeld can be faulted for failed leadership and oversight, the commission said.

Misshandlung von Gefangene in Irak mit Galeriebild

American soldiers stand behind a pyramid of naked Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, Iraq.

"There was chaos at Abu Ghraib," James Schlesinger, a former secretary of defense who headed the four-member commission appointed by Rumsfeld, said. The Schlesinger report contradicted the Bush administration's assertion that the abuses were only perpetrated by a handful of soldiers acting on their own.

It points a direct finger at Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the top US commander in Iraq in January, but counters that the scope of the affair wasn't just limited to Sanchez' unit running the prison.

"There is no evidence of a policy of abuse promulagated by senior officials or military authorities," the report said. "Still, the abuses were not just the failure of some individuals to follow known standards, and they are more than the failure of a few leaders to enforce proper discipline. There is both institutional and personal responsibility at higher levels."

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