Associated Press Writer
6:28 AM PDT, August 3, 2004
FORT BRAGG, N.C. —
A military hearing started Tuesday to determine if a young soldier should be
court-martialed for her actions at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where she was
photographed smiling and giving the thumbs-up sign in the presence of naked,
Pfc. Lynndie England arrived in court at 8 a.m. for the Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury in civilian court.
Although the hearing is open, as soon as it began the attorneys involved in the case went into a private meeting.
A Fort Bragg spokesman, Col. Billy Buckner, told reporters that the prosecution has 25 potential witnesses.
Chief defense lawyer Rick Hernandez of Denver, one of several lawyers working for free, said Monday he planned to call witnesses both in the courtroom and by telephone from Iraq.
The hearing is the first chance in court for the 21-year-old Army reservist's attorneys to make their case that she was following orders from higher-ups when she was photographed mocking naked detaine es at the prison.
Witnesses on a list the defense released earlier this year included Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and top generals, although military officials say it is doubtful they will appear.
England, from Fort Ashby, W.Va., is seen smiling for the camera in one picture, cigarette in her mouth, as she leans forward and points at the genitals of a naked, hooded Iraqi. Another photo shows her holding a leash that encircles the neck of a naked Iraqi man lying on his side on a cellblock floor, his face contorted.
England is charged with 13 counts of abusing detainees and six counts stemming from possession of sexually explicit photos which the Army has said do not depict Iraqis. The maximum possible sentence is 38 years in prison.
England is one of seven reservists from the Cresaptown, Md.-based 372nd Military Police Company who have been charged in the scandal. One, Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits, has already pleaded guilty and been sentenced to a yea r in prison.
"The government has leveled their sights on Ms. England," civilian defense lawyer Rhidian Orr said last week. "I feel that the U.S. government is taking full control of the issue and attacking Ms. England when she's not necessarily to blame."
More than 100 members of the company returned to America and were reunited with their families Monday at the Fort Lee Army base in Petersburg, Va. The unit was called up in February 2003 and mobilized at Fort Lee three months later.
Spec. Charles A. Graner Jr., 35, another soldier in England's unit, also has been charged with abuses and was involved in a romantic relationship with England; he faces adultery charges for allegedly having sex with England last October. She was visibly pregnant in court last month, and her lawyers have said the child is Graner's.
On the Net:
Fort Bragg: http://www.bragg.army.mil