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Fourth soldier to face court-martial in prisoner abuse scandal

BAGHDAD, Iraq—The American military on Friday ordered an alleged ringleader of the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse affair to face court-martial on charges that he abused prisoners, committed adultery and violated other military rules and regulations.

In Washington, defense officials said Friday that the American military commander in Iraq had prohibited military intelligence interrogators from using sleep deprivation, stressful body positions and certain other techniques on Iraqi detainees. Army Gen. Ricardo Sanchez instituted the ban Thursday, the day Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld paid a surprise visit to Abu Ghraib, the officials said.

The defense officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that under a policy that had been implemented in October, those techniques had required a high-level legal review and approval by the military leadership in Iraq before military intelligence interrogators could use them. No approvals were ever given, they said.

U.S. Army Cpl. Charles A. Graner Jr., 35, a reservist, is the fourth military police officer of seven accused in the case to be ordered to trial for mistreating Iraqis at Saddam Hussein's former torture center and photographing it. Graner is charged with seven offenses: obstruction of justice, committing indecent acts, assault, maltreatment of prisoners, cruelty, dereliction of duty and conspiracy. Guy Womack, Graner's lawyer, has said his client was following orders.

One charge accuses Graner of hitting a detainee with a metal baton "that caused pain sufficient to make the detainee cry out, `Mister, mister, please stop.'"

Another charge says Graner "wrongfully (had) sexual intercourse" with another guard, Pfc. Lynndie England, 21, who appears in one photo holding a nude prisoner by a leash. Four months pregnant, England was sent home and is now under investigation at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Adultery is a crime in the U.S. military. England is divorced; Graner, a civilian prison guard in Waynesburg, Pa., is separated from his wife, the mother of his two children.

Graner will be arraigned next Thursday in Iraq, along with Staff Sgt. Ivan L. Frederick II and Sgt. Javal C. Davis, who were already facing courts-martial in the affair. All three are reservists with the 372nd Military Police Company from Cumberland, Md.

No trial date has been set, and Graner, Frederick and Davis have been reassigned to duties that don't involve contact with detainees at Camp Victory, a U.S. military base near the Baghdad airport.

Spc. Jeremy Sivits, 24, faces the first trial Wednesday, on charges of conspiracy to mistreat detainees, dereliction of duty for failing to protect detainees from abuse, cruelty and maltreatment of detainees. A general has empowered a judge to punish Sivits with a bad-conduct discharge.

Sivits allegedly photographed more senior enlisted soldiers abusing prisoners, and he's expected to serve as a witness for the prosecution. He's told investigators that Graner once knocked out a prisoner by punching him in the head.

The cases of the other three military police soldiers are still under criminal investigation.

The mostly open-air Abu Ghraib prison houses about 3,500 Iraqi detainees, few if any of them charged with crimes.

U.S. military officials say the prison has cleaned up its act, in part by replacing reserve military police with more seasoned active-duty soldiers. On Friday, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, a military spokesman in Iraq, announced that the new commander of the prison released 293 Iraqis after reviewing their cases; American officials said they'd free another 475 prisoners next week.

The interrogation techniques that no longer can be employed also include sensory deprivation, the presence of dogs at interrogations and manipulation of a detainee's diet.

Isolating a prisoner more than 30 days was the only technique retained from a list of those that had required legal review and top-level approval before they could be used, the defense officials said.


(Knight Ridder Newspapers correspondent Jonathan S. Landay contributed to this report from Washington.)


(c) 2004, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.