US court halts Abu Ghraib trial

A US military court has temporarily halted a hearing to decide if Private First Class Lynndie England should stand trial for abusing inmates at Abu Ghraib prison.

    England (L) faces up to 38 years in prison

    Lawyers for England on Saturday renewed a request for top US government and military officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, to be called to testify at the hearing into prisoner abuse that shocked the

    Arab world.

       

    England, 21, is charged with 19 counts of prisoner abuse, committing indecent acts and disobeying orders.

       

    She became the symbol of the abuse scandal with the release of dozens of photographs taken at Abu Ghraib including ones showing her holding a naked prisoner on a leash and pointing gleefully at the genitals of another naked inmate.

       

    She faces up to 38 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

     

    Permission

     

    She has become a symbol of the 
    abuse (Pic: Washington Post)

    England's lawyers asked the hearing officer, Colonel Denise Arn, for permission to call more than 50 additional witnesses. The court has heard from 25 in the five days of hearings at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, which started on Tuesday.

       

    Arn said she would rule on the additional witnesses and resume the Article 32 hearing as soon as possible, but gave no indication when that might be. A Fort Bragg spokesman said it could be several weeks before the restart of proceedings.

       

    The four days of testimony provided the defence with new information as lawyers try to build a case that England was following orders and the military chain of command was involved in abuse at Abu Ghraib.  

     

    Abuse tales  

     

    She has been charged with 
    indecent acts (Pic: ABC News)

    The court heard tales of abuse of Iraqi prisoners from military police and military intelligence officers who served at Abu Ghraib. It also heard sometimes contradictory evidence as to whether intelligence officers were involved in it, as the defence contends.

       

    A military criminal investigator said England admitted during interrogation that she "stepped on" Iraqi prisoners and said no one ordered her to do it, contradicting her public claims.

       

    In addition to Cheney and Rumsfeld, England's lawyers want to call Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Lieutenant-General Ricardo Sanchez, the former commander of US forces in Iraq, and Brigadier-General Janis Karpinski, the former US commander of Abu

    Ghraib.

       

    The lawyers also asked prosecutors to produce an officer who signed into Abu Ghraib as "James Bond". Prosecutors said they would try.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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