Judge Says Generals Can Be Questioned In Abu Ghraib Case
By Jackie Spinner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 22, 2004; Page A01
BAGHDAD, June 21 -- A U.S. Army judge on Monday agreed to a request by attorneys for soldiers accused of abusing detainees in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison to question the commander of U.S. military forces in the Middle East, as well as several other top commanders and their subordinates.
The order by Col. James Pohl effectively compels the commanders to submit to interviews unless they invoke their constitutional right against self-incrimination. It names Gen. John P. Abizaid, who heads the U.S. Central Command and supervises operations in the region; Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq; Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, Sanchez's immediate subordinate; Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, deputy commander of detention operations in Iraq; and Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast, the top military intelligence officer in Iraq.
In addition, the order requires others serving under the five Army generals to be made available for interviews.
By allowing the interviews, Pohl appeared to signal a willingness to explore what is emerging as the main line of defense for the seven soldiers accused of abusing and humiliating detainees at Abu Ghraib: that the abusive tactics used at the prison were not only condoned by their commanders but were part of their orders.
Pohl did set a limit, however, on how far he would allow that assertion to be pursued. He rejected defense requests for copies of Justice Department and Pentagon memos on torture and interrogation tactics, although he left open the possibility that he could require the government to turn them over at some point if defense attorneys are able to link what happened in Iraq with policy decisions made in Washington.
"Quite frankly, what they do in Washington, D.C., you have to connect it," Pohl told the attorneys.
In resolving several other discovery requests by the defense, the judge also asked the government to share detainee case files, allow access to detainees at the prison and provide employment records of civilian contractors working as interrogators at Abu Ghraib.
The judge also ordered that Abu Ghraib prison be preserved as a crime scene, though he acknowledged that he has little control over what happens there after June 30, when an interim Iraqi government assumes limited authority from the U.S.-led occupation. President Bush called last month for the prison to be demolished, a suggestion that was quickly rejected by Iraqi leaders.
Pohl issued the decisions at pretrial hearings for Sgt. Javal S. Davis and Spec. Charles A. Graner Jr., two of seven soldiers from the 372nd Military Police Company based in Cresaptown, Md., accused of abuse at Abu Ghraib, 20 miles west of Baghdad. The judge postponed the proceeding for Staff Sgt. Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick II until July 23 after Frederick's civilian attorney failed to appear in court.
A hearing for another soldier charged in the scandal, Pfc. Lynndie England, 21, was scheduled to begin Tuesday at Fort Bragg, N.C., but was postponed to July 12 to allow officials to iron out logistics, one of England's attorneys said Monday afternoon.
The attorney, Richard Hernandez, said that the delay would allow each side to review extensive information in the case and permit Army officials to set up telephone conferences with witnesses in Iraq. A spokeswoman for the XVII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg confirmed the delay.
Graner faces up to 24 years in prison for his alleged role in the abuse scandal. Frederick could get up to 16 years, and Davis faces a maximum of eight years. Spec. Jeremy C. Sivits, the first soldier to face a court-martial, pleaded guilty last month, agreed to testify against the six other accused soldiers and was sentenced to a year in prison.
In response to another defense motion, Pohl granted a request by Davis's civilian attorney, Paul Bergrin, to declassify witness statements contained in an investigative report by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba. Defense attorneys argued that those statements would show that the military police at Abu Ghraib were following orders.
"No one can suggest with a straight face that these MPs were acting alone," Guy L. Womack, Graner's civilian attorney, told reporters after the hearing.
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