The most high-profile defendant in the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal is refusing an order to testify against other U.S. guards at the infamous jail in Iraq and has been placed in maximum security.
Pvt. Charles A. Graner Jr., who is serving a 10-year sentence at a federal prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., was ordered Feb. 23 by a three-star general to testify in the cases of Army Spc. Sabrina D. Harman and Pfc. Lynndie England. The latter gave birth last fall to a baby fathered by Pvt. Graner.
“You are hereby ordered to fully cooperate and provide truthful information during the investigations, courts-martial and trials of” abuse defendants, Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz said in the letter to Pvt. Graner.
But Pvt. Graner’s attorney, Charles Gittins, said his client has refused to cooperate and is being held in maximum security.
“I’m gong to convince him it is in his best interest to cooperate,” said Mr. Gittins, who recently was retained by Pvt. Graner’s family and is trying to set up a meeting at Fort Leavenworth.
A source close to the case said Pvt. Graner was put in maximum security after refusing to provide testimony.
Army prosecutors portrayed Pvt. Graner, a member of the 372nd Military Police company, as the ringleader in a rogue band of guards who regularly abused Iraqi prisoners. Spc. Harman and Pfc. England appear in photographs showing humiliation of groups of captives held in the prison. Both female soldiers have been charged and face court-martial.
Gen. Metz, until recently a top commander in Iraq, sent Pvt. Graner a detailed letter giving him testimonial immunity — meaning that he cannot be prosecuted for any crime to which he admits during testimony.
“I have determined that you possess information relevant to criminal proceedings against soldiers and civilians being investigated for detainee abuse at” Abu Ghraib, wrote Gen. Metz, who commands the Army’s 3rd Corps at Fort Hood, Texas.
Gen. Metz told Pvt. Graner: “Your cooperation with law enforcement officers, investigating officers and counsel investigating these allegations is necessary to the public interest, including the good order and discipline of the U.S. Army.”
Mr. Gittins has sent an e-mail message to Capt. Steven Neill, an Army prosecutor, warning him not to question Pvt. Graner without his attorney present.
“My client is in maximum custody and is being held virtually incommunicado,” Mr. Gittins wrote. “I have written him a letter providing my advice, however, I cannot speak to him where he is right now without a long lead time. … My client has the right to counsel present and intends to exercise that right. My schedule is busy and I cannot just drop everything to be somewhere on short notice.”
Pvt. Graner has contended that he was ordered by intelligence officers to abuse prisoners to force them to provide information on the anti-U.S. insurgency in Iraq. He was seen in photographs with prisoners piled on top of one another and was accused of hitting detainees.
He was convicted of maltreatment of detainees, committing indecent acts and dereliction of duty.