Monday, June 21, 2004

BAGHDAD — Lawyers for two defendants in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal won the right yesterday to question top U.S. generals to bolster arguments that their clients were following orders in their treatment of inmates.

However, the military judge, Col. James Pohl, rejected motions by counsel for Sgt. Javal S. Davis and Spc. Charles A. Graner Jr. to compel testimony from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

The order, issued at pretrial hearings, compels Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Gen. John Abizaid, chief of the U.S. Central Command, to give depositions on polices and practices at the Abu Ghraib prison.

The defense also will have access to Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who was in charge of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and now runs U.S. detention facilities in Iraq. Others who could be questioned include Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, and Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast, chief of coalition intelligence operations.

Questioning senior officers could shed light on interrogation techniques and help determine how far responsibility for the abuse extends up the chain of command.

The judge ruled out moving the trial to the United States or Germany, but said he might reconsider if conditions in Iraq warranted a move by the time testimony begins. A civilian attorney, Guy Womack, said the trial was unlikely to start until October.

The judge declared Abu Ghraib a crime scene that should not be destroyed. President Bush had offered to tear down the prison to remove the stain of abuse, but Iraqi authorities have shown no interest.

Seven members of the 372nd Military Police Company, a reserve unit from Cresaptown, Md., have been charged in the scandal, which gained international attention in April after the publication of photos of abuse and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners.

Civilian defense attorneys have contended that the military police officers (MPs) were acting on instructions from military intelligence officers and civilian contract interrogators.

“No one can suggest with a straight face that these MPs were acting alone,” Mr. Womack said. “They were directly under the supervision and the direction of military intelligence officers.”

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