- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 24, 2005

Pfc. England faces 11 years in prison if found guilty

FORT HOOD, Texas (Reuters) — At Abu Ghraib, all it took was an illicit affair, two imaginative American soldiers and little more than an hour’s worth of digital photos to badly damage the U.S. image as a bulwark of democratic values.

Those are the details that have emerged in the trial of Pfc. Lynndie R. England, the latest of the cases against lower-ranked American soldiers who served at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad.

As early as tomorrow, a military jury at Fort Hood will decide her fate nearly two years after two now notorious incidents of abuse on the night shift.

The 5-foot-1-inch Pfc. England, 22, a former chicken factory worker, appears in photos holding a leash to the neck of a naked Iraqi being extracted from a cell. Charles Graner, her lover and father of her nearly year-old child, testified last week that he asked Pfc. England to hold the leash in an Oct. 23, 2003, photo sequence that lasted less than a minute.

On the night of Nov. 7-8, 2003, Pfc. England posed in front of a pyramid of naked Iraqis with Graner giving a “thumbs up” gesture, and later pointed at the genitals of a hooded Iraqi. An administrative clerk working in another section of Abu Ghraib, Pfc. England frequently visited what was known as the “hard site” for key prisoners to see Graner.

Witnesses say Graner devised the naked pyramid after receiving seven Iraqis thought to have been involved in a riot. The entire episode including the pyramid, forced masturbation and simulated fellatio lasted 67 minutes, analysts testified.

Pfc. England’s lawyer says her client posed out of devotion to Graner, with whom the compliant young woman had struck up a relationship not long after she had married another man. “Those pictures don’t show the absolutely amazing trust she placed in him because she loved him,” Capt. Jonathan Crisp told the five-officer jury.

The mercurial figure of Graner has dominated many of the Abu Ghraib proceedings.

His personal conduct, interviews with soldiers and testimony have revealed a man who could show great charm and ease around people as well as sadistic and abusive behavior not only toward prisoners, but even to the women in his life.

Military officials say he has caused trouble even since the start of his 10-year prison sentence, refusing, for example, to shave in accordance with military prison regulations and earning himself solitary confinement. A spokesman for the prosecution said Graner was forcibly shaved before his testimony, in which he defended the leash and pyramid stacking episodes as legitimate inmate control techniques.

Since imprisonment he persuaded another woman who pleaded guilty in the scandal to marry him.

The other leading Abu Ghraib figure appears far less defiant. Ivan Frederick, serving eight years for forcing naked Iraqis to masturbate, appeared ashen and visibly older than when in court earlier this year.

Lawyers in the England case present closing arguments tomorrow before the jury decides whether to find her guilty on two counts of conspiracy, four counts of maltreating subordinates and one count of indecent acts. She could be sentenced to up to 11 years in prison later in the week if found guilty.

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