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Accused Abu Ghraib soldier back in U.S.

Graner expected to face court-martial in January

From Susan Candiotti
Spc. Charles Graner and Spc. Sabrina Harmon pose with a body packed in ice.
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Justice and Rights

(CNN) -- The soldier at the center of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse case has been brought back to the United States for trial at an Army post in Texas, his lawyer said Monday.

Spc. Charles Graner was flown back under military escort Sunday and transferred to Fort Hood, Texas, defense attorney Guy Womack told CNN.

"He's thrilled to be home," Womack said. "Of course, home is Pennsylvania, but he's just glad to be back in the U.S."

Graner's court-martial is tentatively scheduled for January 7 at Fort Hood, and a hearing in the case is expected in the next few days, Army officials said.

Prosecutors allege he was a ringleader of the physical abuse and sexual humiliation of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, a facility that was notorious for torture under the rule of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The abuses came to light in April, after a series of graphic photographs of soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners were made public.

An investigation led by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger in August found the abuses were "freelance activities" on the part of guards at the prison, but it concluded that others up the chain of command bore direct and indirect responsibility for the mistreatment of prisoners.

Graner has said he was acting on orders from military intelligence officers, and that everything he did was done to "soften up" prisoners for interrogation. His lawyers had asked for a change of venue in August, citing concerns about bringing witnesses to Iraq to testify.

Womack said he expects Graner's family will be allowed to visit him at Fort Hood.

"They're not allowing him to leave the base to see his family. They're telling him it's for his own protection," Womack said.

He said he intends to challenge that when he appears before a judge at a pretrial hearing.

Graner is not confined to quarters but is assigned military police duties that Womack described as "menial tasks."

"His morale is high," Womack said.

Graner has been charged with assault, mistreating prisoners, dereliction of duty, obstruction of justice, conspiracy and committing indecent acts. If convicted on all charges, he could face more than 24 years in prison.

Graner is shown in a number of the notorious Abu Ghraib photographs, most of which were taken with his camera. In various pictures, he can be seen posing, thumbs up, behind a human pyramid of naked prisoners; threatening to punch a detainee; or leaning over the body of a dead prisoner in a shower area of the cell block. Graner has not been implicated in that prisoner's death.

He also is said to be the father of a baby boy born recently to another soldier in the scandal, Pfc. Lynndie England. England appears in photographs with Graner at the prison and in one photo holds a prisoner on a leash. She told investigators Graner suggested she pose that way. (Full story)

Three other soldiers have pleaded guilty to charges related to the Abu Ghraib incidents. Spc. Jeremy Sivits and Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick were members of Graner's unit, the 372nd Military Police Company; the third, Spc. Armin Cruz, was an intelligence analyst with the 325th Military Intelligence Battalion. (Full story)

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