updated 8/24/2004 2:12:38 PM ET 2004-08-24T18:12:38

The U.S. military judge hearing the Abu Ghraib abuse cases said Tuesday that prosecutors have until Sept. 17 to convince him that top military intelligence commanders should not be forced to testify under a grant of immunity.

Prosecutors argued against a defense request for such testimony on the grounds that the commanders might be charged themselves and a grant of immunity would complicate any case against them.

The judge, Col. James Pohl, also rejected a request from the attorney for Spc. Javal Davis to make Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld submit to an interview about the treatment of prisoners. But he said the request could be raised again if the defense made a stronger argument tying purported comments on detainees by Rumsfeld to what happened at Abu Ghraib.

“There’s got to be some links in that chain,” Pohl said.

Reduced charges for guilty plea
The attorney for another of the seven Army reservists charged in the scandal said prosecutors had agreed to drop some charges against his client in return for a guilty plea on the others at a sentencing hearing Oct. 20 in Baghdad. Prosecutors were not immediately available to comment.

Staff Sgt. Ivan L. “Chip” Frederick II issued a statement Monday saying he would plead guilty to some charges. He is charged with maltreating detainees, conspiracy to maltreat detainees, dereliction of duty and wrongfully committing an indecent act.

His attorney, Gary Myers, would not specify which charges Frederick would plead guilty to, and he refused to discuss whether his client would spend time in prison. The only other soldier to plead guilty, Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits, was sentenced to a year in jail.

Charges for intelligence officers
Maj. Michael Holly, one of the prosecutors, said two U.S. military intelligence soldiers would be charged soon with abuses at Abu Ghraib. Those would be the first charges against members of a military intelligence unit.

Speaking in court, Holly gave no details on the charges but said they would be filed against Spc. Armin J. Cruz and Spc. Roman Krol of the 325th Military Intelligence Battalion.

Davis previously named Cruz and Krol as the men who directed incidents of abuse and humiliation at Abu Ghraib. He said Cruz and Krol forced prisoners to crawl across the prison floor while demanding that they confess to raping a boy in prison. Davis said Cruz and Krol also handcuffed the naked men together face to face, forcing them to embrace.

Davis and the other military police reservists accused of abusing prisoners at the Baghdad prison have insisted that they were following orders from military intelligence officers and civilian contractors.

Davis’ civilian attorney, Paul Bergrin, asked the court to grant immunity from prosecution to Col. Thomas Pappas, the military intelligence commander at Abu Ghraib, and several other officers who may have known of the abuse but have refused to talk to investigators citing their right to avoid self-incrimination.

Such testimony could broaden the case beyond the six low-ranking Army reservists and raise the possibility that intelligence officers and others within the military encouraged the abuse to gain information about Iraqi insurgents battling U.S. troops.

A grant of immunity could remove a key obstacle to their testimony. But Holly argued that the officers themselves could face charges after the military completed a report into the role of military intelligence at detention facilities, which is expected to be presented to Congress early next month.

The judge gave the prosecution until Sept. 17 to convince him they should not be compelled to testify. Pohl made it clear, however, that if the government did not intend to file major charges against the officers by then, he would probably grant them immunity to testify.

“This would appear to be critical information to the defendants ... that this was condoned by the higher-ups,” Pohl said.

Judge wants more before involving Rumsfeld
However, Pohl said Davis’ defense had not presented enough evidence to establish that comments allegedly made by Rumsfeld authorizing rough treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay had resulted in abuse at Abu Ghraib.

“I’m not saying there is not a link. I’m saying at this point you haven’t shown me sufficient evidence,” Pohl said.

A Defense Department report scheduled to be released Tuesday puts some of the blame for the scandal on Rumsfeld and other senior civilian and military officials, a source in Washington said. The source said they were faulted for allowing detention centers to operate under confusing policies on allowable interrogation techniques.

The report also concludes that commanders failed to address overcrowding at the prisons and handed off oversight of prisoners to subordinates, NBC News and The New York Times reported.

Suspect admits lying
During his court appearance, Davis admitted that he initially lied to a military investigator by saying he did not take part in maltreatment.

Davis said he was exhausted after a grueling day manning a watchtower and made the false statement because he wanted the Jan. 14 interview to end. He said he went back to investigators the next day and confessed.

“I was dishonest about the things I was accused of,” Davis told the hearing. “I wanted to maintain my integrity.”

His lawyer pounced on testimony by the military investigating agent, Manora Iem, that he was also tired when he interviewed Davis.

“You knew that you were tired that day, and yet you put nothing in the report,” defense lawyer Paul Bergrin said.

Iem said he took no notes during the interview but drafted a five-page report of Davis’ statements that Davis signed. Iem said Davis told him “that he had seen things that were immoral” and described several of them.

Davis, who, along with the other accused reservists, was in the 372nd Military Police Company, based in Cresaptown, Md., is among soldiers accused of piling naked Iraqi prisoners into a human pyramid and photographing themselves standing by, grinning and giving the thumbs-up sign. Davis, Frederick and Spc. Charles Graner also allegedly jumped on the pile of prisoners.

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