Four US soldiers charged with abusing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison face pre-trial hearings before an American military judge in Mannheim, Germany today and tomorrow.
Staff Sgt Ivan Frederick, Specialist Javal Davis, Specialist Megan Ambuhl and Specialist Charles Graner – identified in evidence as the ringleader – are among seven Army reservists accused of abuses at the prison outside Baghdad.
“They’ve been arraigned. Now they have motions to bring to the judge’s attention,” army lawyer Major Andrew Pollock said.
Lawyers won a judge’s ruling to move the two-day session from Baghdad, where the process of bringing the defendants to trial began, to a US Army base in Mannheim.
They say they will seek a permanent change of venue to the United States or Europe, arguing it would be difficult for witnesses and families to attend trials in Baghdad.
The Abu Ghraib scandal broke in April when photographs of hooded and naked prisoners were made public, touching off furious international criticism. Defence lawyers have suggested that the soldiers were following orders.
Graner became known worldwide from the picture of him posing for the camera with his thumbs up behind a pile of naked prisoners.
He has been accused of jumping on prisoners as they lay on the ground, stomping on the hands and bare feet of several prisoners, and punching one inmate in the temple so hard that he lost consciousness.
Additionally, he faces adultery charges for having sex with Private Lynndie England, who is now pregnant with his child and is currently facing a pre-trial hearing in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Graner, of Uniontown, Pennsylvania, risks the harshest sentence of the four: up to 24 years in prison, forfeiture of pay, reduction of rank and a dishonourable discharge.
Ambuhl, of Centreville, Virginia, and Graner are scheduled to go before Judge Pohl today.
Frederick, of Buckingham, Virginia, and Davis, of Roselle, New Jersey, may appear today or tomorrow.
The seven soldiers were in Iraq as members of the 372nd Military Police Company, a reserve unit based in Cresaptown, Maryland.