Judge halts Abu Ghraib case to consider plea

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The Independent US

The US Army reservist Lynndie England, who appeared in some of the most notorious photographs associated with the torture and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib jail, has pleaded guilty to seven counts of abuse. The judge adjourned the proceedings, however, to consider whether to accept the plea after the 22-year-old from West Virginia said that at the time she did not believe her actions were wrong.

The US Army reservist Lynndie England, who appeared in some of the most notorious photographs associated with the torture and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib jail, has pleaded guilty to seven counts of abuse. The judge adjourned the proceedings, however, to consider whether to accept the plea after the 22-year-old from West Virginia said that at the time she did not believe her actions were wrong.

England, who most infamously appeared in a photograph in which she was holding a naked, hooded Iraqi on a dog leash, said she had been told what to do by her then lover, Charles Graner, the father of her child. Last January Graner was sentenced to 10 years in jail for his role as the alleged ring-leader of the abuse. England's plea before the military court at Fort Hood, Texas, had been worked out in advance with prosecutors who dropped two of the charges she had been facing.

The charges she agreed to admit to carry a potential sentence of 11 years in jail rather than 16-and-a-half years but her lawyers hope she could receive as little as 30 months. Yet the arrangement hit a potential stopping block when the judge, Colonel James Pohl, called a break to consider whether to accept England's plea.

"[Graner] handed me the leash and said hold this, I'm going to take a picture," said England. "He wanted it to look more ... humiliating if a female of my size would hold it." She added: "I assumed it was OK because he was an MP [military policeman]. He had the background as a corrections officer and with him being older than me I thought he knew what he was doing."

England's lawyer, Captain Jonathan Crisp, said he hopes she will get a reduced sentence because of "mental shortcomings". Mr Crisp said: "She was a pawn."

England is one of seven members of the 372nd Military Police Company charged with humiliating and assaulting prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Sabrina Harman, another Abu Ghraib guard, is to go on trial at Fort Hood next week.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has cleared all but one of the top five commanders at Abu Ghraib of any wrongdoing.

Brig-General Janis Karpinski, was relieved of her command and given a written reprimand.

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