Soldier's prisoner abuse trial begins

Published: Tuesday, January 11, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 10, 2005 at 11:58 p.m.
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Army Spc. Charles Graner speaks during a break in his military trial at Fort Hood, Texas, Monday. Graner, the accused ringleader in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, is the first soldier to be tried in the case.

AP Photo/LM Otero
FORT HOOD, Texas - The alleged ringleader of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal went on trial Monday with witnesses telling a military court they watched him punch an Iraqi inmate in the face and saw him laugh while forcing prisoners to pose naked.
Spc. Charles Graner Jr. was the first soldier accused in the scandal to go on trial. His case will be an important first test of the argument put forth by defense attorneys that the soldiers were ordered to soften up detainees for interrogators and had no choice but to obey.
Spc. Matthew Wisdom, the first witness in Graner's prisoner abuse court-martial, said Graner was among a number of guards who roughed up detainees on Nov. 7, 2003.
Graner, a 36-year-old former prison guard from Uniontown, Pa., is charged with conspiracy to maltreat Iraqi detainees, assault, dereliction of duty and committing indecent acts.
If convicted on all counts, he faces up to 17 1/2 years in a military prison.
Army prosecutor Maj. Michael Holley conceded during opening statements that there were problems at Abu Ghraib, but that those difficulties did not justify Graner's actions.
Defense lawyer Guy Womack said Graner and his comrades were rewarded when they softened up detainees. Womack played down the photos that showed naked prisoners stacked in pyramids. "Don't cheerleaders all over America make pyramids everyday?" he said. "It's not torture."
Three more soldiers also are awaiting trial at Fort Hood. One is Lynndie England, who in October gave birth to a child who Army prosecutors say was the result of a relationship with Graner.

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