A leading figure in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal has been relieved of his command, the Army announced yesterday. It also confirmed that the officer, Col. Thomas M. Pappas, had been reprimanded and fined but will not face criminal prosecution.
An announcement from U.S. Army Europe in Germany, said Gen. B.B. Bell, the top Army general in Europe, relieved Col. Pappas of command of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade.
Col. Pappas had faced the possibility of criminal prosecution under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but instead received what the military calls nonjudicial punishment under Article 15 of the code.
Col. Pappas is among the highest ranking officers whose actions have been scrutinized in the abuse scandal. Only one general -- Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski of the Army Reserve -- has been punished. She was demoted to colonel and relieved of command of the 800th Military Police Brigade.
Army officials speaking on the condition of anonymity revealed on Wednesday that Col. Pappas had been reprimanded and fined, but they said the question of whether he would lose his command had not been settled.
Yesterday's announcement said the punishment for Col. Pappas was effective from Monday.
Col. Pappas was not accused of ordering abuse or participating in it, but the Army said some soldiers under his command were involved and he was faulted for two instances of dereliction of duty.
Maj. Gen. Bennie Williams, who decided not to press criminal charges, ordered Col. Pappas to repay $8,000 in salary and gave him an official letter of reprimand. Taken together the penalties essentially stop him from being promoted in rank and thus hasten the end of his career.
Gen. Williams is commander of the 21st Theater Support Command. He was given the task of deciding the Pappas case because Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the 5th Corps commander who might otherwise have handled it, had to recuse himself in light of questions about his own role in Abu Ghraib. The Army recently cleared Gen. Sanchez and two other generals of wrongdoing in the matter.
Col. Pappas had the option of refusing the nonjudicial punishment and contesting the accusations in a court martial, but decided against it.
The Army said it verified a finding of previous Army investigations that Col. Pappas had failed to obtain approval from superior commanders before authorizing an unsanctioned interrogation method: the presence of military dogs during interrogations as a method of scaring prisoners.
The Army also said Col. Pappas was derelict in his duties by failing to ensure that soldiers under his command were informed of, trained in and supervised in the application of interrogation procedures.