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Officer found not guilty of Abu Ghraib abuse

Reuters | August 28, 2007
Andrew Gray

A court-martial on Tuesday ruled a U.S. Army officer was not responsible for abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, but was guilty of disobeying an order not to discuss an investigation into the case.

Army Lt. Col. Steven Jordan, the only U.S. military officer to face court-martial over the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, denied the charges against him and argued he was made a scapegoat for the scandal, which provoked worldwide outrage.

The military court at Fort Meade, Maryland, outside Washington, convicted Jordan of willfully disobeying a superior commissioned officer, the Army said in a statement.

But Jordan was acquitted of being responsible for cruel treatment of detainees. He was also acquitted of failing to train soldiers to treat inmates properly.

Prosecutors said Jordan was in charge of an interrogation center at the prison west of Baghdad. But his defense team said he had no command authority over anyone at the prison and his job was to improve living conditions for soldiers there.

Having reached a verdict, the court-martial panel of 10 officers began considering a sentence for Jordan. He could face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and dismissal from the Army.

A leading human rights group said prosecutors had performed poorly in the case and the fact Jordan was the only officer to face court-martial over Abu Ghraib was unacceptable.

John Sifton, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the U.S. government had not been serious about getting to the bottom of the Abu Ghraib scandal.

"They just slapped a couple of wrists and they cleared all the officers who were in command of any wrongdoing. There was no real accountability," Sifton said.

Images of the Abu Ghraib abuse, including naked detainees stacked in a pyramid and others cowering before snarling dogs, became public in April 2004.

The widely publicized pictures, taken in late 2003, triggered international condemnation of the United States and damaged the reputation of the U.S. military as it waged war in Iraq.

Several low-ranking soldiers have been convicted in military courts in connection with the physical abuse and sexual humiliation of detainees at Abu Ghraib.

Two officers senior to Jordan at Abu Ghraib were disciplined by the Army, but neither faced criminal charges.

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