An attorney for an Army reservist shown in photographs smiling and gesturing at naked Iraqi prisoners said yesterday that the “20-year-old farm girl from West Virginia” is taking the fall for military shortcomings that include a lack of troops.
Pfc. Lynndie R. England, 21, of Fort Ashby, W.Va., was charged Friday with mistreating prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in a scandal that has drawn worldwide outrage.
Six other soldiers from the 372nd Military Police Company were charged earlier, and one of them, Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits of Hyndman, Pa., will face a court-martial in Baghdad on May 19.
One of those charged is 37-year-old Staff Sgt. Ivan L. “Chip” Frederick, once the senior enlisted officer at Abu Ghraib.
One of Pfc. England’s Denver-based attorneys, Giorgio Ra’Shadd, said the military was so short of troops in Iraq that untrained people were being used as guards.
“Because there was a shortage of personnel, the commander on the scene took people who had no idea how to be MPs and cut them off at the neck from their leadership,” he said. “That is crazy.”
He said his client was being offered up as a scapegoat for the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners.
Potential penalties for Pfc. England could range from a reprimand to imprisonment and a punitive discharge. Mr. Ra’Shadd and the other lawyers are defending Pfc. England for free, and he said they plan to meet with her for the first time today at Fort Bragg, N.C.
In photographs that have been shown repeatedly in press reports, Pfc. England is seen smiling, a cigarette in her mouth, as she leans forward and points at the genitals of a naked, hooded detainee. Another photo shows her holding a leash that encircles the neck of a naked Iraqi man lying on his side, his face contorted.
Mr. Ra’Shadd accused intelligence operatives of staging many of the scenes in order to scare prisoners into talking.
“That is a standard psychological war method,” he said.