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Witness: Graner Ordered to Beat Prisoners

By T.R. Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 13, 2005; Page A13

FORT HOOD, Tex., Jan. 12 -- A former inmate at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison testified Wednesday that Army Spec. Charles A. Graner Jr., a former guard and the alleged ringleader of the abuse there that spawned an international scandal, was ordered by military intelligence officers to beat and torture inmates.

In videotaped testimony played at Graner's court-martial, prisoner Walid Mohanden Juma recounted an incident at the prison near Baghdad with a female intelligence officer and Graner in a second-floor bathroom.

"Graner was the one who beated me," Juma testified.

One of Graner's attorneys asked if the intelligence officer told Graner to beat Juma. "Yeah, this took place," Juma said.

The prisoner testified about other interrogation sessions with Graner and an intelligence officer named Steve.

"Steve told him to punish me," Juma testified. "Steve said he would give me a bar of soap and say, 'Eat it.' " The soldier's attorney asked whether Graner did that. "Yes."

Juma's testimony came a day after two other inmates testified by videotape on behalf of military prosecutors, who concluded their case Tuesday. The testimony of all three depicts a terrifying prison environment of violence and beatings by U.S. soldiers. President Bush and defense officials say that the abuse was the isolated work of rogue soldiers. No senior officers have been charged.

Graner, 36, began his defense Wednesday. He is the first connected with the Abu Ghraib scandal to face a full-fledged court-martial, and he has maintained that superiors ordered him to rough up inmates to prepare them for intelligence interrogations.

Master Sgt. Brian Lipinski, who is in Graner's unit -- the 372nd Military Police Company, an Army Reserve unit based in Cresaptown, Md. -- testified that a top intelligence officer at the prison, Lt. Col. Steven Jordan, assured Graner that he was "doing a good job." That assessment came a few days after Graner had forced naked Iraqi prisoners to form a human pyramid and knocked an inmate unconscious with a punch to the head.

But Lipinski said that a performance evaluation by Graner's superior chastised him for going too far when he smashed an inmate's head against a wall.

Under cross-examination by prosecutors, Lipinski also testified that Graner often disobeyed orders. Lipinski said Graner altered his uniform and wore his hair long, and was warned to stay away from Pfc. Lynndie England, another soldier charged in the abuse.

Graner, a former prison guard from Uniontown, Pa., faces five charges stemming from the excesses at Abu Ghraib in the winter of 2003-04. If convicted, he could face as many as 17 1/2 years in prison.

Four enlisted soldiers have pleaded guilty to criminal offenses at Abu Ghraib.

In addition to Graner's argument that he was just following orders, defense attorney Guy Womack has argued that the human pyramid and other tactics represent routine prison-control techniques.

Womack brought in an expert witness, a professional trainer of prison guards named Thomas J. Archambault. Before proceedings began, Archambault said Graner's methods were "reasonable" and "very creative."

But the judge, Col. James J. Pohl, refused to allow questions along that line because no evidentiary foundation had been laid for the testimony. Womack gave up and dismissed his expert, leaving no evidence that Graner's approach was normal practice.

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