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Prison abuse suspect called willing participant

Lynndie England Hearing Resumes In Fort Bragg
Army reservist Pfc.  Lynndie England arrives for Monday's pre-trial hearing in Fort Bragg, N.C.Chuck Liddy / pool via Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

A soldier already convicted in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal testified Monday that fellow Army reservist Pfc. Lynndie England was a willing participant in creating the “human pyramid” of naked Iraqi detainees shown in infamous photographs from Iraq.

Pvt. Jeremy C. Sivits testified at a hearing in England’s case that he helped escort one detainee into the Baghdad prison one night in December 2003. He said a sergeant who was in charge yelled at England and another soldier for “stomping on the fingers and toes” of a detainee.

After that sergeant left, Sivits testified, he watched as Spc. Charles Graner Jr. and others stacked seven naked detainees, who had bags over their heads, in the human pyramid and photographed them.

The photos included shots of England, 21, smiling and pointing at one detainee’s genitals and posing behind the pyramid.

Suspect was ‘having a good time’
“Corporal Graner seemed like he was enjoying it,” said Sivits, of the Maryland-based 372nd Military Police Company. “Pfc. England was sitting in his lap, having a good time.”

Several soldiers have testified that England was Graner’s girlfriend, and he has been described as the father of the child she is due to deliver in October.

Sivits pleaded guilty in the scandal and is serving a year in prison. He testified by telephone Monday from the brig at Camp Lejeune.

England is one of seven members of the 372nd charged in the scandal. Graner has been portrayed as the group’s ringleader. Staff Sgt. Ivan “Chip” Frederick II announced last week that he would plead guilty to some of the charges against him.

The hearing, which began earlier this month, is to determine whether England, a personnel clerk from Fort Ashby, W.Va., should face a court-martial on 13 counts of abusing detainees and six counts stemming from possession of sexually explicit photos not involving detainees. If convicted, she could get up to 38 years in prison.

Since the hearing recessed Aug. 8, investigating officer Col. Denise J. Arn has been considering a defense request to call more than 160 witnesses. The list ran from Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to a mysterious military interrogator known only as “James Bond” or “Agent 007.”

Two witnesses set to testify
However, a Fort Bragg spokesman, Maj. Richard Patterson, said just two witnesses would testify during this week’s session, scheduled to continue Tuesday. It was not immediately clear who might be called from the defense list.

During the first five days of testimony earlier this month, Arn heard from 21 witnesses. Many painted a picture of a prison in disarray, a description that was amplified last week by the report of an independent commission.

“There was chaos at Abu Ghraib,” said James R. Schlesinger, the former defense secretary who headed the four-member commission appointed by Rumsfeld.

Members of England’s unit testified about critical supply shortages that forced them to keep prisoners naked for long stretches and to give male detainees female underwear. There was conflicting testimony about whether military police controlled the area where the abuse occurred or, as England’s attorneys contend, military intelligence was calling the shots.

England has said she and other guards were told to “soften up” prisoners for interrogations. But several witnesses denied any such orders were given. They testified instead that the abuse depicted in the photographs — men tethered to leashes, forced to simulate homosexual acts and piled in nude pyramids — was more for sport or revenge.