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Judge bars Iraqi's statement

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Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2005 12:00 pm | Updated: 3:14 pm, Wed Aug 15, 2012.

By Debbie Stevenson

Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD A statement from an Iraqi detainee who was photographed hooded and standing on a box with wires attached to his fingers at the Armys Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq was barred by the judge Wednesday during pretrial hearings for the latest trial in the abuse scandal.

Attorneys for Spc. Sabrina Harman, a 27-year-old Army reservist, said the mans statement on Jan. 16, 2004, to an Army law enforcement officer could exonerate her.

The very person who had wires put on him does not identify my client as the one who put the wires on him, said Frank Spinner, Harmans civilian attorney.

Harman faces up to 6 years in prison if convicted of conspiracy to maltreat detainees, five counts of maltreating detainees and dereliction of duty. She is the ninth soldier charged in the scandal that erupted in April 2004 after pictures were aired on a news network showing detainees being abused and placed in sexually humiliating poses.

Harmans charges stem from a series of photographs that show her smiling behind naked detainees stacked into a pyramid and giving a thumbs-up over the corpse of a detainee who apparently died during an interrogation after he had been beaten by Navy SEALs.

She also is accused of writing rapeist on another prisoners leg and forcing the hooded Iraqi to remain on a Meals-Ready-to-Eat box with his arms outstretched or face electrocution.

This image is an icon now and the government is objecting to entering his statement, Spinner told Col. James Pohl, the V Corps judge presiding over the case.

Harmans court-martial is scheduled to begin today.

Her defense team Wednesday also was unsuccessful in getting Pohl to reduce the number of photographs planned to be shown to the jury by the prosecutors. Pohl also denied a request that prosecutors refrain from calling the detainees victims in case it prejudices the jury.

Spinner said the prisoner had said he heard two male voices while being placed on the box. However, Pohl ruled the statement did not meet the courts standards because it had not been sworn, was translated and could not be corroborated now that the man could not be found.

The mans statement was not used during earlier Article 32 proceedings, the militarys equivalent of a grand jury hearing. Spinner said he had remained at Abu Ghraib as a prisoner until at least June. Harman was charged three months earlier in March 2004.

Fort Hood spokesman Capt. Cullen Sheppard said the Army has been unable to find the witness since he made his statement to investigators on Jan. 16, 2004.

Poor records, spelling errors and number changes made it difficult to track the prisoners as they are transferred or released, Sheppard said, adding that the government is not responsible for keeping tabs on witnesses.

If the trial proceeds today, Harman will be the second soldier to go on trial.

Six of the nine junior-ranking soldiers have pleaded guilty and received their punishments ranging from six months to eight years.

Charles Graner, a civilian corrections officer and alleged ringleader, was the first to go on trial in January. He was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years in prison by a Fort Hood jury, demoted from specialist to private and will receive a dishonorable discharge.

Pfc. Lynndie England, Graners former lover and the youngest of the soldiers, last week attempted to enter a guilty plea under a deal struck with prosecutors. Testimony by Graner brought her sentencing proceedings to a halt after it conflicted with statements made by England about a photograph in which she is seen as a 19-year-old holding a naked detainee at the end of a leash.

Pohl declared a mistrial May 4 and returned the case to Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, who commands III Corps and Fort Hood and is the convening authority.

A statement from Fort Hood on Wednesday said Metz reviewed the case two days later and directed it to an Article 32 investigation. No start date has been set.

Contact Debbie Stevenson at

deborah@kdhnews.com

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