Abu Ghraib Court Martial

Iraqi prisoners 'treated no worse than cheerleaders'
By Alec Russell in Washington
(Filed: 11/01/2005)

The lawyer for Charles Graner, the alleged ringleader of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, yesterday compared heaping naked Iraqi prisoners in a tangled pyramid to choreographed displays by high-school cheerleaders.

"Don't cheerleaders all over America form pyramids six to eight times a year? Is that torture?" Guy Womack asked a 10-member military jury in Fort Hood, Texas.On the opening day of the court martial of the first of four soldiers accused of abusing Iraqis in the Baghdad jail, he also defended the tethering of prisoners on a leash as a legitimate method of control.

"You're keeping control of them. A tether is a valid control to be used in corrections," he said. "You've probably been at a mall or airport and seen children on tethers - they're not being abused."

America's reputation suffered a devastating blow last April with the publication of photographs of Graner, Pte Lynndie England, with whom he fathered a child, and others in their military police unit grinning beside Iraqis in humiliating poses.

Among the more notorious pictures were those of Graner smiling and flashing a thumbs-up beside a tangled heap of naked Iraqis and of England, who also faces a court martial, casually tugging a crawling Iraqi on a leash.

The latter was one of several of the infamous photographs shown by the prosecution yesterday in their opening arguments. Mr Womack said the soldiers took the photographs "because no one did anything they thought was wrong".

The crux of the defence case is that Graner and his colleagues were merely following orders. "He was doing his job - following orders and being praised for it," Mr Womack said.

Graner, 36, faces up to 17½ years jail on charges including mistreating detainees, dereliction of duty and assault. He has pleaded not guilty. The prosecution opened its case with a stark account of the charges against Graner relating to the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in late 2003.

Major Michael Holley, the chief prosecutor, said Graner beat a prisoner with a baton until the Iraqi begged for death, and forced men "to simulate fellatio".

Specialist Matthew Wisdom testified that he felt "sick" when he witnessed some abuses. Four of seven members of Graner's unit, from the 372nd Military Police Company, have already pleaded guilty to abuse charges. Three have been jailed.

Asked for his mood ahead of the court martial's opening Graner said: "It's been ups and downs but the ups have so outweighed the downs."

Unbe-fcukin-lievable! Now that is a line I'd never have thought of - cheerleaders?! Kiddies on leashes?!! FFS!

donald findlay would be proud of that defence! 8O

what a heap of sh1t

agent smith

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