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Iraq: Prisoner Abuse Woman Sentenced To 3 Years

Prisoner abuse at Abu Ghurayb Lynndie England, the U.S. soldier pictured holding a naked Iraqi prisoner on a leash, has been sentenced to three years in prison and given a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. Army for abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib prison. England said she was sorry for her actions, but blamed her involvement on her boyfriend of the time. Her sentencing comes amid fresh allegations of abuses by U.S. soldiers at another Iraqi detention facility.

Prague, 28 September 2005 (RFE/RL) -- She became the face of the Abu Ghurayb abuse scandal.

In photos that caused outrage around the world, Lynndie England grinned as she pointed at the genitals of a naked Iraqi prisoner. In another, she held a leash round a naked prisoner's neck.

Now she faces the next three years in prison.

She said nothing as she heard the verdict yesterday at the Texas military court -- just bowed her head, and cried.

Earlier, in a statement, England apologized to coalition forces, and to prisoners and their families.

But in her testimony, she said she had been manipulated by her boyfriend of the time, Charles Graner, the alleged leader of the abuse who was sentenced to 10 years in January.

Speaking last year, she said she'd just been following orders.

"I was instructed by persons in a higher rank to 'stand there, hold this leash, look at the camera,' and they took the picture for psy ops [psychological operations]. And that's all I know," England said.

England is the last of nine low-ranking soldiers who have either pleaded guilty or been convicted in connection with the England scandal of 2003 and 2004.

But her conviction for maltreating prisoners comes amid fresh allegations of abuse by U.S. soldiers at another detention facility in Iraq.

Rights group Human Rights Watch said on 23 September that troops from the 82nd Airborne Division beat and abused prisoners at a base near Al-Fallujah in 2003 and 2004, either under orders or with the approval of superior officers.

The group does not name any of the soldiers who made the allegations, though one has been named in newspaper reports as Captain Ian Fishback.

Yesterday, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld vowed to investigate every such allegation.

"We take every allegation seriously. My recollection in this case is it's all second-hand information. What I've seen [and] read in the press doesn't suggest he's [Fishback] had first-hand information, it sounds like it's things he heard. All I know is the army is taking it seriously. The CID [Criminal Investigation Division] is investigating it and they will pursue it. To the extent somebody's done something they shouldn't have done, they'll be punished for it. And in any event we'll know the truth," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld and top military officials say no abuse is tolerated and that all allegations are investigated.

They say incidents of maltreatment like those in Abu Ghurayb are a disgrace to other men and women in uniform, and that they're not condoned by the Pentagon or the White House.

But critics like Human Rights Watch say U.S. policy decisions created a climate in which abuses are allowed -- and that low-ranking soldiers then take the blame.

England's conviction may close the chapter on the most notorious Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal -- but the latest claims could keep inmate abuse in the headlines yet.