Testifying at a two-day preliminary hearing at a military court in Baghdad for a female soldier embroiled in the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal, Captain Donald Reese said a “Colonel Pappas” was one of a number of people present during the interrogation.
Colonel Thomas Pappas was commander of the 205 Military Intelligence Brigade at the prison near Baghdad. He is now stationed in Germany, a US military spokesman said.
On Thursday, the first day of the hearing for Specialist Sabrina Harman, Reese described how he saw the bleeding body of a prisoner who had been brought in alive after a 27 October bomb attack on the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Harman, 26, faces a range of charges including desecrating a corpse and mistreating prisoners. She was photographed grinning next to the body in one of the images of the scandal that shocked the world when it broke in April.
“I was told that when he was brought in he was combative, that they took him up to the room and during the interrogation he passed,” Reese testified, adding that the first time he saw the man was when he was dead in a shower.
Reese said he was first told that the man died of a heart attack. The body “was bleeding from the head, nose, mouth,” he said. “I heard Colonel Pappas say: ‘I’m not going to go down alone for this’,” Reese told the hearing.
The body was left locked in the shower overnight to avoid frightening other prisoners and an autopsy was conducted the following day, the captain said.
Iraqi prisoners were hooded
It established the cause of death as a blood clot from trauma, he added. The proceedings at a military base in Baghdad, which were due to continue on Friday, also heard how detainees were kept naked and were abused by military police.
Specialist Israel Rivera, one of six defence witnesses, described how three naked, terrified detainees, who had been accused of raping a 15-year-old fellow prisoner, were made to drag themselves along the floor.
He said Harman and Specialist Charles Graner, who is facing separate proceedings over the abuse scandal, were directing the incident on 24 or 25 October.
Graner was shouting things like, “Are you guys f…ing in there?” and “f…ing fags”, and ordering that their “genitalia had to drag along the floor”.
“(The prisoners were) screaming, shouting, crying, begging”
Specialist Israel Rivera,
“He was the loudest and the one actually giving orders,” Rivera said.
“Specialist Harman she was one of the people instigating it, giving the orders, telling them to keep going …” he said, adding that the prisoners were “screaming, shouting, crying, begging”.
He said the prisoners were chained together and placed in a position mimicking “homosexual relations”.
Specialist Jeremy Sivits was sentenced on 19 May to a maximum one-year jail term for his role in the abuse and pre-trial hearings were held for Graner, Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederick and Sergeant Javal Davis last week.
Another two soldiers will face hearings at a later date.
The Pentagon says the abuse of Iraqi prisoners was only confined to a few low-ranking soldiers at Abu Ghraib. Seven have been charged.
But some of their defence lawyers say it was carried out with the knowledge of senior officers and at the request of military intelligence to help soften up inmates for interrogation.