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Iraq: U.S. Soldier Gets 10 Years For Role In Abu Ghurayb Prison Abuses

The images from Abu Ghurayb shocked the world A military jury sentenced an enlisted U.S. soldier to 10 years in jail for his leading role in the torture of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghurayb prison in 2003. Specialist Charles Graner Jr.'s jail term is five years less than the maximum sentence under the law.

Prague, 16 January 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The sentencing at the Fort Hood military base in Texas came one day after the military jury found Graner guilty on 10 counts related to physical and sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghurayb.

Many of the charges stemmed from abuses that were documented in photographs obtained by news organizations and broadcast around the world -- including images of naked prisoners stacked into a pyramid and forced to perform sexual acts.

He also allegedly punched one prisoner in the head hard enough to knock him unconscious and struck an injured prisoner with a collapsible metal stick.

Graner showed no reaction when the sentence was read. He appeared calm as he was taken off to prison.

"You know, I was a soldier," he told reporters. "And if I did wrong, here I am."

During 2 1/2 hours of testimony at yesterday's sentencing hearing, Graner smiled from time to time. He spoke confidently as he detailed his role in the scandal that has been an international public relations disaster for the U.S. military.
Formerly a Pennsylvania prison guard, Graner was convicted on charges that include conspiracy, assault, and indecent acts.

He told the four officers and six enlisted men on the jury that the United States is still at war in Iraq and that "bad things happen" in wartime.

Formerly a Pennsylvania prison guard, Graner was convicted on charges that include conspiracy, assault, and indecent acts.

He will be dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Army after completing his jail term. He also was demoted to the army's lowest rank of private and must forfeit all pay and allowances while he is in prison.

Graners's attorney, Guy Womack, said he was disappointed with the sentencing and that an appeal will be made.

"Of course we are disappointed about the findings. Knowing the findings, you never know what the jury might think. We were afraid that the sentence could be worse," Womack said. "Specialist Graner got 10 years, but he walked in here with his head up and his thumb up [a positive mental attitude], I might add. And [he] has [had] a trial and now does have some appealable issues, we believe. We are sorry for the conviction, and I wish the sentence had been lower."

Four others have been convicted for abusing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghurayb after reaching plea-bargain agreements in their cases. Specialist Graner is the first soldier put on trial in the case who had pleaded not guilty.

The prosecuting attorneys, Major Michael Holley and Captain Chris Graveline, refused to speak to reporters after the sentencing. But they said in a joint statement that they think it was important for the world to be able to observe the court-martial.

Graner did not testify during the trial phase of his case. But during the sentencing phase yesterday, Graner took the witness stand to repeat the defense claim the jury clearly rejected: that he had been ordered by U.S. intelligence agents at Abu Ghurayb to abuse the prisoners in order to make them easier to interrogate.

His mother, Irma Graner, told reporters after the sentencing that her son is a scapegoat being used to cover up abuses that he had been ordered to commit.

"He got 10 years in prison for something he was told to do," she said.

When asked at yesterday's hearing why he was smiling in some of the infamous photographs, Womack said it was the same kind of "nervous smile" that he displayed in the courtroom during his trial and sentencing.

The photographs of Abu Ghurayb prisoners being abused and sexually humiliated by their U.S. captors were first broadcast on the "60 Minutes II" program on U.S. television in April.

A month later, President George W. Bush urged Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to make sure that any guilty U.S. soldiers be punished for what he called "shameful and appalling acts."

(compiled from wire reports)