By Debbie Stevenson
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD The court-martial for Spc. Sabrina Harman, one of nine soldiers connected to the Armys Abu Ghraib prison scandal, has been pushed back to May.
The trial had been scheduled to begin Monday in III Corps courtrooms on Fort Hood. Instead, a motions hearing is set to convene for the Maryland reservist who is charged with three violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The hearings are expected to last two days, a Fort Hood news release stated.
Harman is the fourth soldier to face proceedings at Fort Hood in the Abu Ghraib scandal. She is charged with three violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, all occurring at the Abu Ghraib prison in the October-December 2003 period.
On Jan. 15, Spc. Charles Graner, a 36-year-old military policeman and corrections officer from Uniontown, Pa., was sentenced to 10 years and a dishonorable discharge. He was believed to have been the ringleader.
Sgt. Javal Davis was sentenced Feb. 4 to six months in prison and a bad conduct discharge for his role in the abuse, the lightest sentence so far coming out of the Baghdad prison scandal. On Feb. 1, Spc. Roman Krol, a military intelligence soldier, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy and maltreatment and was sentenced to eight months behind bars.
So far, the defendants have claimed the abuse was sanctioned, even urged by military intelligence officers at the prison. Attorneys also have argued prisoner-treatment rules began to be dismantled or blurred by the U.S. government decision to circumvent the Geneva Conventions at its detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The admission of evidence to support those claims has been opposed by prosecutors and Col. James Pohl, the V Corps judge presiding over the cases.
On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union and the group Human Rights First sought to link U.S. military commanders to the abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan in lawsuits filed against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and three Army commanders on behalf of former detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Claiming the military authorized illegal interrogations, lawsuits also were filed against Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the V Corps commander who led U.S. forces in Iraq from the March 2003 invasion until his slot divided and reorganized into two general-officer positions at the three- and four-star levels in May 2004; Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the former commander of military police in Iraq who was relieved of her command after the abuse at Abu Ghraib was disclosed; and Col. Thomas M. Pappas, who oversaw interrogations as commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade in Iraq.
In the lawsuit, Rumsfeld is accused of ordering the abandonment of our nations inviolable and deep-rooted prohibition against torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners.
In a news release, the Pentagon denied the allegations.
We vigorously dispute any assertion or implication that the Department of Defense approved of, sanctioned, or condoned as a matter of policy detainee abuse, the release stated. No policies or procedures approved by the Secretary of Defense were intended as, or could conceivably have been interpreted as, a policy of abuse, or as condoning abuse.
The release further stated that there have been major reviews, inspections and investigations into claims of abuse. Another three are in progress.
To date, more than 100 individuals have undergone, or are undergoing, disciplinary proceedings. We anticipate there may be additional proceedings against additional individuals, the release stated.
The Maryland military police defendants all have claimed their activities at Tier 1, a clandestine wing of the Baghdad prison, were either known to or sanctioned by Lt. Col. Steven Jordan, the military intelligence officer at the prison.
The Abu Ghraib prison scandal erupted in April after photographs of prisoner abuse were aired on CBS 60 Minutes.
In one of the more infamous pictures, Harman is pictured smiling behind detainees stacked naked in a human pyramid. She also is accused of witnessing others being lined up against a wall and forced to masturbate while being photographed.
In a hearing last month, her attorneys sought to have charges related to the photography dropped, claiming a victim has to be aware of the abuse to feel either pain or suffering.
The judge ordered both sides to review the issue. If dropped, the counts could reduce Harmans maximum sentence to 2 years.
Four other soldiers have pleaded guilty under plea deals and have received sentences ranging from demotion to eight years in prison in the prison abuse scandal.
Pfc. Lynndie England, a clerk at the prison who was photographed holding a naked detainee at the end of a leash, is still awaiting trial.
Contact Debbie Stevenson at email@example.com