US soldier found guilty of abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib

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The Independent US

Charles Graner, the Army reservist who was involved in the mistreatment of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib jail, was last night found guilty by a military court of abusing prisoners.

Charles Graner, the Army reservist who was involved in the mistreatment of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib jail, was last night found guilty by a military court of abusing prisoners.

Graner, 36, the boyfriend of fellow reservist Lynndie England and father of her child, was found guilty on all 10 counts by the jury at Fort Hood, Texas. The jury, made of military officers and senior enlisted men, altered one of the counts to a lesser offence.

Graner stood to attention and looked straight ahead without any visible reaction as the verdict was read. He held his hands tightly clenched. There was no immediate word last night from Graner's lawyers, but it is expected they will appeal the decision. He faces up to 15 years in prison.

Graner is just one of eight US reservists from the 372nd Military Police Company - Ms England among them - who have been charged over the abuse scandal which shocked the world last spring when photographs emerged showing the troops abusing and sexually humiliating prisoners. Pictures showed naked Iraqis, often hooded, being abused and taunted by the grinning US troops.

The jury, which considered its decision for five hours, reached its verdict after hearing from military prosecutor Captain Chris Graveline, who told the court yesterday morning that Graner had beaten-up and humiliated the Iraqi prisoners simply for fun. The court was shown e-mails and photographs of abuse that Graner had sent home. "It was for sport, for laughs," Capt Graveline said. "What we have here is plain abuse. There is no justification. It is for sport, it is for laughs. He sends it back home by e-mail for laughs. It is all about their own sexually depraved humour."

During the five-day trial, the prosecution brought evidence that portrayed Graner as a sadist. He was accused of stacking naked prisoners in a human pyramid and later ordering them to masturbate while other soldiers took photographs. He also allegedly punched one man in the head hard enough to knock him out, and struck an injured prisoner with a collapsible metal stick.

Graner, from Uniontown, Pennsylvania, has a history of violence. Court documents obtained by The Independent showed that his former wife obtained three separate "temporary protection of abuse" orders against him. She told the court how he had once gone to her house after she had moved out with their two children.

"He yanked me out of bed by my hair, dragging me and all of the covers into the hall, and tried to throw me down the steps," she said.

Graner was also reprimanded several times over allegations of prisoner mistreatment at the Greene Correctional Facility in Pennsylvania where he worked. One of the allegations said he racially abused a Muslim prisoner and mocked his religion.

But many observers say Graner and his colleagues, all low-ranking soldiers, are being made to take the blame for a policy set by the most senior levels of the Bush administration.

In his closing arguments, Graner's lawyer, Guy Womack, said his client was following orders of military intelligence officials based at Abu Ghraib. "Corp Graner is a smart guy, professional and he was doing his job in Iraq," he said. "Now the government would ask a corporal, one of the junior people there, to take the hit for it."