Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Closing arguments ahead in Abu Ghraib abuse case | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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FORT HOOD, Texas (Reuters)-Defense lawyers have a last chance on Monday to argue that U.S. soldier Lynndie England was not responsible for her actions when she posed for notorious photos of abuse at Iraq”s Abu Ghraib prison.

England, 22, faces up to 11 years in prison if convicted on all seven counts connected with the abuse, which included posing with Iraqis who were forced to masturbate and famously holding a leash tethered to the neck of a naked prisoner.

Final arguments are scheduled for Monday and a five-member military jury could begin deliberations and issue a verdict as early as later the same day. If they find the reservist guilty, sentencing would follow later in week.

During the trial, England”s defense team has concentrated on showing that she had such a compliant personality that she was incapable of participating in a conspiracy to abuse prisoners.

Psychologists testifying for the defense said England obediently did what her boyfriend Charles Graner told her to do, after experiencing learning difficulties, suffering depression and being beaten as a child.

&#34Her compliant personality in the context of her relationship with Charles Graner explains those pictures,&#34 defense psychologist Xavier Amador said on Friday. &#34She did not have a meeting of the minds with Charles Graner to commit a criminal act.&#34

Graner, now serving a 10-year sentence for his leading role in the Abu Ghraib scandal, said on the witness stand that he asked England to hold a leash tethered to the neck of the naked Iraqi. Graner also admitted that he had piled up the detainees photographed in a naked human pyramid.

England”s two conspiracy charges account for two years out of the maximum sentence of 11 years. &#34An accused may be sane, and yet, because of some underlying mental condition, may be mentally incapable of agreeing with the alleged co-conspirators to maltreat detainees,&#34 according to sample instructions that could be read to the jury.

The military jury panel of five male officers has repeatedly asked written questions of witnesses, taking advantage of a privilege not afforded U.S. civilian juries. Foremost among them on Friday was whether England, a former chicken factory worker who worked as an army administrative clerk, knew that what she was doing was wrong.

But the question did not fit into the narrow legal framework of the defense case as they are not arguing insanity, in which an accused cannot tell right from wrong.

&#34The issue of full mental responsibility is raised by the members” questions,&#34 Judge Col. James Pohl said on Friday outside of the presence of the jury. &#34To opine whether she knew right or wrong at this time is now legally irrelevant.&#34

How Pohl set the legal framework is essential, especially since he negated a guilty plea at England”s first trial in May after Graner told the court he ordered England to hold the leash.

She was originally charged with crimes that could have landed her in prison for 38 years.

England”s trial is the latest in a series dating back more than a year focusing on low-level soldiers who served at Abu Ghraib. Since then, the military has launched investigations into hundreds of other cases of possible detainee abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan and reprimanded some higher ranking officers.