Pfc. Lynndie R. England, one of the American soldiers shown in photographs of alleged abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, will face a preliminary military court hearing next month, her attorney said yesterday.
Rose Mary Zapor said England is scheduled for an Article 32 hearing at Fort Bragg, N.C., beginning June 21, at which prosecutors are expected to argue that England should be tried at a court-martial on charges of humiliating and abusing detainees last fall. Zapor said the hearing is scheduled for an entire week.
The hearing would be another official setting for exploring the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal and would be the first such hearing on U.S. soil. Other members of the 372nd Military Police Company implicated in the scandal have faced similar hearings in Iraq, where witnesses have testified that soldiers physically and emotionally abused detainees by stripping them naked, hitting them, and placing them in mock sexual positions to degrade them. Seven MPs have been charged in the abuse so far; one has pleaded guilty.
Army officials at Fort Bragg did not return phone calls yesterday, and an Army spokesman at the Pentagon said there had been no official notification about England's hearing.
England, 21, an Army reservist from West Virginia, has emerged as a central figure in the scandal, as she is featured prominently in some of the photographs linked to the abuse.
She is the short woman with brown hair pointing at a hooded detainee's genitals; she is the soldier holding the leash that encircles a naked detainee's neck.
But England's attorneys are looking forward to the opportunity to call witnesses and present their contention that England was following orders, that she was told by her superiors to pose for the photos. Zapor said yesterday that she plans to use the hearing to delve into the role of military intelligence officers, something that she and other defense lawyers have said lies at the heart of the matter.
"She was ordered to do it," Zapor said, adding that her client was not a prison guard and was on Tier 1A -- where the alleged abuses occurred -- only a few times. "The ongoing abuse that was indicated there, she was not a part of."
Zapor said she also will try to have England's statements to Army investigators thrown out of court, statements in which England acknowledges she posed for the photographs, took photographs and physically assaulted prisoners.
In the statements, obtained by The Washington Post, England said she helped other soldiers shove prisoners into walls, watched as naked detainees were stacked in a pyramid, and helped pose detainees in sexual positions.
She also said that military intelligence personnel "had told us to 'rough them up' to get answers from the prisoners."
Zapor argues that England's statements are inadmissible because her client asked for an attorney before answering an investigator's questions.
"It's very simple: She had counsel, and they continued to interrogate her after she invoked her right to counsel," Zapor said.
England also said in the statements that she appeared on the cellblock to visit friends there, mainly Spc. Charles A. Graner Jr., with whom she was in a relationship. According to her statements, Graner directed her into position for some of the photographs and was involved in the decision to place the leash around a detainee's neck.
Zapor declined to discuss the role England's relationship with Graner may have played in alleged abuses. In earlier interviews, Zapor confirmed that England is five months pregnant with Graner's child.