Graner Gets 10 Years for Abuse at Abu Ghraib

By T.R. Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 16, 2005

FORT HOOD, Tex., Jan. 15 -- Former Army prison guard Spec. Charles A. Graner Jr. was sentenced to 10 years in a military stockade Saturday for his role in abusing Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison, an episode that sparked a wave of anti-American indignation around the world last spring.

The 10-member military jury passed sentence three hours after hearing Graner deliver an unsworn presentencing statement, not subject to cross-examination, in which he said that superior officers instructed him take actions at the prison that he knew would "violate the Geneva Conventions."

Graner spent 2 1/2 hours laying out an often harrowing tale of a chaotic, Dickensian prison where the rules of permissible conduct were constantly changing and most guards were young reservists with little or no training. At one point, he showed the jury a copy of the Army's "ROE," or "Rules of Engagement," which spelled out four steps of increasing severity for guards to use in controlling unruly inmates: "Shout, Shove, Show [a weapon], Shoot."

Graner also said cellblock "One-Alpha" at the crumbling, overcrowded Army prison housed a number of "ghost detainees" -- prisoners held with no written records so that International Red Cross inspectors would not be aware of them.

His statement added new details about what Graner understood his superiors wanted him to do, and it conformed with the overall picture of widespread abuse and inept management at the Abu Ghraib prison that military investigators and prosecutors have alleged in reports and testimony.

On Friday, Graner was convicted on five charges of assault, maltreatment and conspiracy stemming from the prison scandal. Having waived his right to testify under oath at his trial, when he would have faced a prosecutor's cross-examination, Graner chose instead to address the jury before sentencing.

In addition to the 10-year prison term, out of a possible maximum of 15 years, the jury demoted Graner to private and gave him a dishonorable discharge.

The 36-year-old reservist identified by the Army as the ringleader of the rogue guards at Abu Ghraib reiterated what other witnesses had said during his week-long trial: that numerous senior officers condoned the beatings and humiliation of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

President Bush has said that the prison abuse was strictly the fault of a handful of junior enlisted soldiers.

On the night shift at One-Alpha, Graner said, the Army assigned two low-ranking reservists to guard 80 to 100 prisoners, ranging from common criminals to veteran terrorists. He showed a picture of the guards' cellblock "office" -- a closet-size space surrounded by sandbags to protect against the guns and grenades that he said were regularly smuggled to the prisoners.

Graner said the guards were told to "terrorize" the inmates to make it easier for CIA agents and military intelligence officers to question them.

"They would say . . . give this prisoner 30 seconds to eat," Graner recalled. "It's pitch black in your cell. I shine a light in your eyes to blind you. I haul you out, naked, and I hand you the [packed lunch] and the whole time you're trying to eat I'm screaming at you. Then time's up. We gave you the opportunity to eat. You just didn't eat."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2005 The Washington Post Company