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Abuse hearings for 3 U.S. soldiers Monday

A lawyer for Sgt. Javal Davis, charged in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, is expected to ask the judge Monday to dismiss the case when Davis and two other defendants return to court for a pretrial hearing.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A lawyer for an American soldier charged in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal is expected to ask the judge Monday to dismiss the case when three defendants return to court for a pretrial hearing.

Paul Bergrin, lawyer for Sgt. Javal S. Davis, said last week that he would ask the judge, Col. James Pohl, to dismiss charges against his client because of “improper command influence” extending all the way to President Bush.

Bergrin also contends that senior U.S. military officers sanctioned harsh treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison and said he would look for evidence that Davis was simply following orders.

A military court in the Baghdad Convention Center inside the heavily guarded Green Zone will hear motions Monday in the cases against Davis and two other defendants — Spc. Charles A. Graner Jr. and Staff Sgt. Ivan L. “Chip” Frederick II.

They are among seven soldiers from the 372nd Military Police Company, an Army Reserve unit from Cresaptown, Md., who have been charged with abusing Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib, located on the western edge of Baghdad.

The prison scandal broke in April when CBS’ “60 Minutes II” aired photographs of hooded and naked prisoners which unleashed a torrent of international criticism. Since then other photographs showing sexual humiliation and other abuse have surfaced in a case which has undercut the moral authority of the U.S.-led mission in Iraq.

On May 19, Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits became the first soldier convicted and sentenced in the scandal. Sivits pleaded guilty and received the maximum penalty of one year in prison, forfeiture of pay, reduction in rank to private and a bad conduct discharge.

More serious charges
The three defendants due in court Monday face more serious charges and could receive long prison terms.

Before leaving for Baghdad last week, Bergrin said that if the military judge refuses to dismiss the charges, he would try to have the trial moved from Iraq to the United States.

The lawyer also said he would seek to interview current and former detainees at Abu Ghraib to “determine the extent of the abuse, whether military intelligence officers were present and gave the orders.”

Frederick’s civilian lawyer, Gary Myers, has said he will ask the judge for an investigator to assist in his client’s defense. Myers also said he would request a new Article 32 hearing — similar to a grand jury proceeding — because his client was not allowed to gather evidence or interrogate witnesses at his first session.

Other cases
A hearing for another soldier charged in the scandal, Pfc. Lynndie England, 21, will be held separately on Tuesday at Fort Bragg, N.C., where she is now stationed.

The military has not decided whether to refer the cases against two others — Spc. Sabrina Harman and Pfc. Megan Ambuhl — to courts martial.

Coalition officials said the judge wanted to complete all three hearings Monday but that the proceedings could last for three days.

During their first court appearance May 19, Graner, Frederick and Davis waived their rights to have charges read aloud and their pleas were deferred.

Graner, of Uniontown, Pa., has been accused of striking several prisoners by jumping on them as they piled on the floor. He is also charged with stomping the hands and bare feet of several prisoners, and punching one inmate in the temple so hard that he lost consciousness.

He also faces adultery charges for having sex with England last October. He could receive 24- 1/2 years in jail, forfeiture of pay, reduction in rank, and a dishonorable discharge.

Array of charges
Frederick, of Buckingham, Va., is accused of forcing prisoners to masturbate, placing naked prisoners into a human pyramid and taking photos, and placing wires on a detainee’s hands, telling him he would be electrocuted if he fell off a box on which he was forced to stand.

He faces a maximum punishment of 16-1/2 years in confinement, forfeiture of pay, reduction of rank, and a dishonorable discharge.

Davis, of Maryland, is accused of maltreating prisoners, stomping on their hands and feet and putting prisoners in a pile on the floor to be assaulted by other soldiers. He faces maximum of 8-1/2 years in jail, forfeiture of pay, reduction in rank and a dishonorable discharge.

Graner, Frederick and Davis have not been detained. Since being charged they have “been reassigned to duties not related to any kind of detention operation,” a coalition official said.