7 Charges Filed Against a Central Figure in Iraq Prison Abuse.

Seven charges, including cruelty and maltreatment of detainees, have been brought against an Army specialist in connection with the abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, the United States military said today.

The other charges against the specialist, Charles A. Graner Jr., include willfully failing to protect detainees from abuse at the prison outside Baghdad; adultery; and committing indecent acts.

A military judge will arraign Specialist Graner along with Staff Sgt. Ivan L. Frederick II and Sgt. Javal C. Davis on May 20, but no date has been set for a court-martial, a spokesman for the American command, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, said in Baghdad.

Specialist Graner, 35, a former marine who served in the first American military operation in Iraq more than a decade ago, has become a central figure in the Abu Ghraib scandal, and a subject of controversy.

His fellow soldiers in the 372nd Military Police Company, which is based in Maryland, say they considered him a voice of strength and experience. Iraqi detainees, however, feared and loathed him, saying he routinely beat, humiliated and intimidated them, military investigators have said.

His former service as a guard at one of the toughest, most secure prisons in Pennsylvania, State Correctional Institution Greene, has also been raised as a subject of concern by some people, including Representative John P. Murtha, a Democrat from Pennsylvania and a former marine.

Specialist Graner was not among dozens of corrections officers accused in a major mistreatment scandal at the state prison in the 1990's, and a suit accusing him of beating a handcuffed inmate was dismissed. But he was fired, and Congressman Murtha has questioned how Specialist Graner could later have been given a supervisory role at Abu Ghraib.

Two photographs, seemingly contradictory in nature, have also become an issue.

Specialist Graner's lawyer, Guy Womack, has said his client was just following orders in Iraq, and today The Wall Street Journal published a photograph showing Specialist Graner, hands on hips, watching as an overweight man in military clothes apparently adjusted a small number of shackled, naked men clutching each other as they lay on the floor of Abu Ghraib.

The photograph, in which numbers have been etched on five men so they can be identified, was supplied to Mr. Womack by Specialist Graner, the lawyer told the newspaper.

Mr. Womack says he was told by Specialist Graner that four of the soldiers in the photograph were from military intelligence and that the man seen adjusting the Iraqis was a civilian under contract to military intelligence.

"Look at that guy -- he's too fat to be in the Army," Mr. Womack told The Journal, citing the man adjusting the detainees. "And look at my M.P. -- he's not giving orders, he's taking them."

The photograph is expected to be used as a cornerstone in Specialist Graner's defense.

Another photograph, however, showing Specialist Graner flashing a muscular thumbs-up beside a pyramid of hooded, naked Iraqis has become one of the iconic images of the abuse.

Another soldier, Specialist Jeremy C. Sivits, has told investigators that Specialist Graner punched a prisoner with such force, after cradling his head in his arm, that it knocked the detainee unconscious."

Specialist Sivits, 24, who is expected to plead guilty when his own court-martial on abuse charges opens next Wednesday, says Specialist Graner was joking and laughing, "Like he was enjoying it."

One of the other men charged with abusing prisoners, Sergeant Davis, said today that he had roughed up detainees but that he had not taken part in the scenes of humiliation that were circulated around the world.

"You won't see me in any photographs," he told ABC News. "I didn't take any photographs. I'm not in any of those."

The sergeant, who said he was "shocked" by the images, added: "I'm innocent of what you see on television every day. It just hurt my heart."

But he conceded that he took part in "softening up" prisoners scheduled for interrogation by stepping on fingers and toes.

[Source: The New York Time, US, 14May04]

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