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Military high court to hear Abu Ghraib appeals

The U.S. military's highest court has scheduled oral arguments next month on two appeals stemming from the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The U.S. military's highest court has scheduled oral arguments next month on two appeals stemming from the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The appeals of former Sgt. Michael Smith, an Army dog handler, and former Spc. Sabrina D. Harman, an Army military police reservist, are the first the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces in Washington has agreed to hear since photographs of naked detainees in humiliating positions shocked the world in 2004.

Smith, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has a hearing set for Oct. 8. He was sentenced in 2006 to 179 days in prison and reduced in rank to private for offenses that included letting his black Belgian shepherd bark and lunge at several prisoners for his own amusement. One photograph showed the dog, without a muzzle and straining on its leash, just inches from the face of a cowering prisoner.

Harman, whose hearing is set for Oct. 14, was sentenced in 2005 to six months in prison for offenses that included participating in an episode in which wires were placed in the hands of a hooded detainee who was made to stand on a box and told he would be electrocuted if he fell. Her rank was also reduced to private as part of her sentence.

Harman, of Lorton, Va., also was photographed giving a smiling "thumbs-up" beside a pyramid of naked, handcuffed detainees.

Both soldiers are challenging the sufficiency of the evidence against them.

Highest-ranking member released
Harman argued during a lower-court proceeding that she wasn't adequately trained to serve as a prison guard. She also contended that since nudity and handcuffing of detainees was common at Abu Ghraib, it wasn't clear which acts were permissible and which were not.

Smith and Harman are among 11 low-ranking soldiers convicted of crimes at Abu Ghraib. The highest-ranking, former Staff Sgt. Ivan L. Frederick, an MP reservist from Buckingham, Va., had his appeal request rejected in April. Frederick was released in October from the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., after serving three years of an eight-year sentence.

Former Cpl. Charles Graner Jr., an MP reservist from Uniontown, Pa., whom prosecutors portrayed as the ringleader, hasn't yet filed an appeal petition, according to court records. He is serving a 10-year prison sentence.

Former Pfc. Lynndie England of Fort Ashby, W.Va., received a ruling Thursday on her appeal to the lower Army Court of Criminal Appeals. The court rejected most of her claims but agreed to correct a minor error in her file.

The high court refused to hear appeals of former Spc. Armin Cruz, former Sgt. Javal Davis and former Spc. Jeremy Sivits, all of whom pleaded guilty to offenses and were sentenced to a year or less behind bars.

There is no record of appeals to the high court by former Spc. Megan Ambuhl Graner, former Sgt. Santos A. Cardona or former Spc. Roman Krol. Krol was sentenced to 10 months in prison. Ambuhl Graner and Cardona served no prison time for their offenses.

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