Statement tossed in case against Abu Ghraib officer

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A military judge yesterday threw out a statement that supported one of the charges against the only U.S. military officer charged in the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal.

Army Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan wasn’t properly advised of his rights by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba during Gen. Taguba’s investigation of prisoner abuse by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib in February 2004, the judge, Col. Stephen R. Henley, found during a three-hour pretrial hearing.

The ruling likely will force the government to drop its charge that Col. Jordan, a reservist from Fredericksburg, Va., who headed an interrogation center at the prison in Iraq, lied when he told Gen. Taguba that he never saw nude detainees, never knew of dogs being used in interrogations and never supervised anybody guarding prisoners or doing interrogations in the prison.

“The reality is that this is the only piece of evidence there is” to support the charge, Maj. Kris Poppe, a member of Col. Jordan’s defense team, told reporters.

A dismissal of the charge would leave Col. Jordan still facing six counts and up to 16 years in prison. Prosecutors yesterday also dismissed another count — failure to obey a lawful order — after the defense argued that it duplicated another charge.

The charge based on the Taguba statement carries one of the harshest penalties — a five-year prison term — but dropping it wouldn’t seriously weaken the government’s case that Col. Jordan allowed detainees to be stripped naked and intimidated by dogs. Those charges are based largely on other people’s statements.

Col. Jordan’s attorneys contend that he wasn’t involved in interrogations and that most of the abuses were committed by military police who weren’t under his command.

Col. Jordan is charged with cruelty and maltreatment, dereliction of duty, willfully disobeying orders, making a false official statement and making a false sworn statement. The last three charges stem from Col. Jordan’s interview with another Abu Ghraib investigator, Maj. Gen. George Fay.

Col. Henley postponed the start of Col. Jordan’s trial from July 9 to Aug. 20. He also ordered another pretrial hearing to be held July 10 at Fort McNair.

Col. Jordan was at Abu Ghraib in the fall of 2003, when detainees were stripped, sexually humiliated, beaten and set upon by dogs. He is currently on extended active duty with the Intelligence and Security Command at Fort Belvoir.

Eleven other U.S. soldiers, none ranking higher than staff sergeant, have been convicted of crimes while several officers have been reprimanded but not charged with crimes.

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