Military Specialist Pleads Guilty to Abuse and Is Jailed

By NORIMITSU ONISHI

New York Times

September 12, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 11 - The first American military intelligence specialist to stand trial in connection with the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison pleaded guilty here on Saturday to abusing prisoners. He was sentenced to eight months in jail.

The soldier, Specialist Armin J. Cruz, 24, an Army intelligence analyst, was also demoted to private and expelled from the military with a bad-conduct discharge. He became the second soldier to be sentenced in the scandal, which was first described by the Pentagon as resulting from the misconduct of military police, not intelligence personnel.

Specialist Cruz, who was found guilty on two charges of maltreating and conspiring to maltreat prisoners, ordered three naked prisoners to crawl along a concrete floor, handcuffed them and stepped on at least one of them.

He said he had begun taking part in the abuse after Specialist Roman Krol, an intelligence interrogator, called him to a high-security cell block where three prisoners were brought in.

"When you walked in, did you know it was wrong?" the military judge, Col. James Pohl, asked in the trial, which was held in the heavily fortified American and Iraqi government headquarters.

"Yes, sir," Specialist Cruz said. "There's no way to justify it."

In May, Specialist Jeremy Sivits, 24, a military police reservist, pleaded guilty in a special court-martial here to abuse charges and was sentenced to the maximum of one year in prison, reduction in rank and a bad-conduct discharge.

Although the Pentagon depicted the abuse as the product of rogue military police officials, the M.P.'s lawyers have contended that they were acting under the direction of intelligence personnel to "soften up" prisoners before interrogation.

The three prisoners in the incident involving Specialist Cruz were not considered potential sources of intelligence, however. They were suspected of raping a 15-year-old boy.

On Oct. 25, 2003, Specialist Cruz, of Plano, Tex., who was responsible for analyzing intelligence and who sometimes took part in interrogations, testified that Specialist Krol called him to watch how the three prisoners were being disciplined. Among those present, he said, were Specialist Charles Graner Jr., Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick 2nd, Specialist Sabrina Harman and Private Lynndie England, who was captured in several photos of the abuse.

Specialist Cruz said he and others ordered the prisoners stripped. Asked why he had done so, he said, "There's no real good reason."

"Is there a bad reason?" the judge asked. "Were you just following what the others were doing?"

"That's part of it," Specialist Cruz said. He explained that he was suffering from the after-effects of having lost two fellow soldiers, including his superior, in a mortar attack a month earlier. "I saw three guys who killed two soldiers, including my boss," he said of the detainees.

Specialist Cruz, a reservist who volunteered to serve in Iraq instead of completing his studies at the University of Texas and who was awarded a Purple Heart in Iraq, had faced a maximum of one year in prison. It has not been determined yet where he will serve his term.

An Army inquiry led by Maj. Gen. George R. Fay found that military intelligence personnel committed many of the offenses at Abu Ghraib, including some during interrogation. In 16 of the 44 abuse cases cited in the Fay report, military intelligence personnel encouraged or condoned abuses committed by military police; in 11 other cases, intelligence personnel committed abuses.

According to the report, in the case involving Specialist Cruz, he, Sergeant Frederick and Specialist Graner "made the detainees act as though they were having sex." In separate testimony last month, Specialist Israel Rivera, who was present at the abuse, said Specialist Cruz had stepped on their buttocks to make them simulate homosexual sex.

Stephen Karns, Specialist Cruz's civilian lawyer, said the defendant would appeal the bad-conduct discharge. He said stress from the fatal mortar attack, for which Specialist Cruz sought but did not receive counseling, had caused him to act out of character.

The prosecution said Specialist Cruz's behavior had tarnished the military and hardened Iraqi opposition against the American presence.

That opposition was evident again on Saturday in Basra, in the south, where a car bomb exploded in front of the American Embassy regional office around 4 p.m. No Americans were killed, an official at the embassy in Baghdad said. Two Iraqis not connected with the embassy office died, according to the official.

[Kidnappers released a Turkish journalist in the northern city of Mosul three days after her abduction, Reuters reported, citing a CNN Turk television broadcast from Ankara on Saturday. The kidnappers delivered the journalist, Zeynep Tugrul of the mass circulation Sabah newspaper, to a local Turkmen politician after they contacted the politician by telephone, the station said. Their motive was not known, the station said.]

And even as the United States hit insurgents in Falluja last week with airstrikes, the Iraqi central government tried to assert its authority over the city. Gen. Muhammad Latif, commander of the Falluja Brigade, met with Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh last week, an aide to the general said. The Falluja Brigade, an American-assembled force that has collapsed, will be disbanded, the aide said, and a new Iraqi Army unit with members from the Falluja area will be formed.