Soldier will admit role in Abu Ghraib abuse

One of the American soldiers facing a court martial for his part in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal yesterday indicated he intended to plead guilty to at least some of the charges.

As he prepared for a preliminary hearing today at a US Army base at Mannheim in Germany to determine whether he should be tried over allegations that he and several colleages mistreated Iraqi prisoners, Staff Sergeant Ivan "Chip" Frederick told reporters he had "accepted responsibility" for his actions in Iraq.

"I will be pleading guilty to certain charges because I have concluded that what I did was a violation of law," he said. "I am hopeful that all those within the army who contributed to or participated in the chaos that was Abu Ghraib will also come forward and accept responsibility."

Sgt Frederick did not specify the charges to which he will plead guilty, and it was not clear whether he will continue contesting any of the allegations. He has been charged with maltreating detainees, conspiracy to maltreat detainees, dereliction of duty and wrongfully committing an indecent act.

US Army Specialist Charles Graner, 35, who is alleged to be the ringleader in the abuse, failed yesterday to suppress incriminating photographs of humiliated detainees at the jail yesterday during the pre-trial hearing. A photograph of Spc Granerbehind a pile of naked prisoners at Abu Ghraib was leaked to the media. He is accused of jumping on inmates as they lay on the ground, sexually humiliating them and rendering one prisoner unconscious.

Dressed in desert fatigues and remaining impassive for most of the hearing, the military policeman yesterday described his tour of duty in Iraq as one of the "most stressful" periods in his life. "We worked every day, several of our platoon had taken fire. Both my room-mates had been injured," he told the court.

His defence lawyers said that hundreds of photographs depicting the abuse of prisoners had beentaken from the soldier's laptop without his consent and so should not be admitted as evidence. The judge, Colonel James Pohl, dismissed the argument.

Manora Iem, one of the investigators, told the court that Spc Graner had appeared to understand his rights when they were read to him by investigators in January. "He was alert, he was very co-operative, but he feared he was being made a scapegoat," he said.

The pre-trial hearing was held in Germany after defence lawyers argued that it was too dangerous for witnesses and relatives of the accused to travel to Iraq. But the judge rejected a request for the eventual trial to be moved out of Iraq.

Spc Graner was appearing alongside Spc Meghan Ambuhl, Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederick and Sergeant Javal Davis, who are also charged with involvement in the prisoner abuse scandal.

He is accused of photographing a detainee being dragged by Private Lynndie England on a leash. He is also accused of forcing prisoners to strip naked and masturbate in front of each other. He also faces adultery charges for having sex with Pte England, who is pregnant with his child. Spc Graner faces up to 24 years in prison. Defence lawyers have argued that their clients were following orders to break inmates for interrogation.

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