- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 3, 2004

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) — Prosecutors yesterday portrayed Pfc. Lynndie England as an out-of-control soldier who mocked Iraqi prisoners “just for fun,” seeking to discredit assertions that she had been following orders when she abused detainees at Abu Ghraib prison.

On the first day of a hearing to determine whether Pfc. England should be court-martialed for her actions at the prison, witnesses testified that the naked detainees photographed with her in human pyramids and tethered to a leash were common criminals of little or no value to interrogators and abused only for sport.

An Army investigator, Paul Arthur, testified that when he interviewed Pfc. England about the photos three months before they became public, she told him that they had been taken while soldiers “were joking around, having some fun, during the night shift.”

Mr. Arthur said he thought the reservists from the 372nd Military Police Company, based on Cresaptown, Md., were responding to the stress of being in a war zone. Just before the pictures were taken in October, there had been a prison riot, and some soldiers had been injured.

“It was just for fun, kind of venting their frustration,” Mr. Arthur testified.

But when asked whether that assessment applied to Pfc. England, Mr. Arthur replied: “She never mentioned that she was frustrated. She said it was more for fun.”

Defense attorneys have said that the 21-year-old Army reservist from Fort Ashby, W.Va., had been following orders from her superiors and that the U.S. government has made her a scapegoat for an incident that stirred outrage in the Arab world and in the United States.

They spent much of the Article 32 hearing’s first day grilling investigators on how aggressively they questioned military intelligence operatives at the prison. The hearing is similar to a civilian grand-jury session.

Mr. Arthur said Pfc. England initially told him that military intelligence officers allowed the reservists to take the photographs for use in interrogating other prisoners, but there was no indication that ever happened.

“No one said they were going to turn them over to military intelligence,” he testified.

A second Army investigator, Warren Worth, testified that Pfc. England never indicated that she had been an unwilling participant in the photos, and that she had taken some of the pictures herself.

He said her job was in another part of the prison complex, and she had been warned that she didn’t belong in the area where the pictures were taken.

Pfc. England, visibly pregnant beneath her woodland camouflage uniform, sat impassively with her elbows on the defense table and her hands folded in front.

One of the prison photos shows Pfc. England smiling, cigarette in her mouth, as she leans forward and points at the genitals of a naked, hooded Iraqi. Another photo shows her holding a leash that encircles the neck of a naked Iraqi man lying on his side on a cellblock floor, his face contorted.

Pfc. England is charged with 13 counts of abusing detainees and six counts stemming from possession of sexually explicit photos, which the Army has said do not depict Iraqis. The maximum sentence is 38 years in prison.

Pfc. England is one of seven reservists from the 372nd charged in the scandal. One, Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits, has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to a year in prison.

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