First soldier faces trial for prison abuse

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The Independent US

The first prosecution of the soldiers accused of abusing and sexually humiliating Iraqi prisoners was taking place today in Baghdad.

The first prosecution of the soldiers accused of abusing and sexually humiliating Iraqi prisoners was taking place today in Baghdad.

The court martial of Jeremy Sivits, a reservist with a military police unit, was the first of a handful of soldiers accused over the abuse to face trial.

He pleaded guilty to maltreatment of detainees, dereliction of duty for failing to protect detainees from abuse, cruelty and maltreatment and maltreating one prisoner by escorting him "to be positioned in a pile on the floor to be assaulted by other soldiers."

Captain Scott Dunn, Sivits' lawyer, told the judge, Colonel James Pohl, that Sivits had reached a pre-trial agreement with the prosecution, presumably to testify against others accused in the case.

Earlier, three other accused - Sgt. Javal Davis, 26, of Maryland, Spc. Charles Graner Jr., of Uniontown, Pa., and Staff Sgt. Ivan L. Frederick of Buckingham, Va. - appeared in court. All three waived their right to have the charges read in court and deferred their pleas pending another hearing on 21 June.

"I can't think of a more important set of courts-martial," Eugene Fidell, president of the Washington-based National Institute of Military Justice, told the Newsday newspaper, "...the extraordinary volatile climate in which these cases are going to play outdomestically and internationally. In political terms, in legal terms and in military justice terms, this is kind of a perfect storm."

In recent days Mr Sivits, from Pennsylvania, has been separated from the other members of the 372nd Military Police Company who have been charged, further suggesting that he is going to provide evidence against them as well as implicating himself.

Meanwhile the US plans within weeks to begin annual reviews of whether to release foreign terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, the Pentagon said last night.

Each of the 6,000 non-US citizens held at the US naval base in Cuba will be allowed to appear in front of a board of three US military officers. Hearings will be closed and prisoners will not have the right to legal representation, the Pentagon said.

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