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Family, friends defend soldier in abuse photos

'She follows orders,' sister says


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Pfc. Lynndie England points at a hooded and naked Iraqi prisoner at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.
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FOUNTAIN, West Virginia (CNN) -- A female Army reservist featured prominently in several photos of prisoners in Iraq was just following instructions when she posed in the pictures, a sister and a friend of the woman said Friday.

"Certain people in the Army told her to do what she did. She follows orders," said Jessica Klinestiver, sister of Pfc. Lynndie England.

England, 21, is among eight soldiers being investigated by the Army in connection with apparent abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers.

One photo shows England holding a leash attached to a prone prisoner's neck. In another photo, England and her fellow company member, Spc. Charles Graner of Uniontown, Pennsylvania, are shown smiling and making thumbs-up gestures as they stand near naked Iraqi prisoners.

Asked why her sister would be smiling in such pictures, Klinestiver implied that England was merely posing, and "she's smiling at whoever's behind the camera."

However, neither her sister, a friend nor her family attorney would discuss whether they knew who took the photos, or why or how they were taken.

Klinestiver and Destiny Goin, who described herself as England's best friend, appeared with attorney Roy G. Hardy at a news conference in England's hometown. The trio said they called the news conference to ask reporters to leave the family alone, and to offset public impressions left by the photos of England, who is now at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

"We just want to make sure you guys realize she's a human being," Hardy said as several family photos were spread out on a table. The family pictures included one of England with a friend after a high school prom in 2001.

Another showed Graner and England in casual civilian clothes on a beach vacation in Virginia.

Hardy said England is five months pregnant, and that Graner is the father.

"She did have a relationship with him," Hardy said. He would not comment on the status of the couple now beyond saying, "There is a current relationship, although I don't think they get to spend much time together."

Hardy said England's family is in the process of hiring another attorney specifically to defend England against any charges brought by the Army.

"As of today, the military has not given her a lawyer, so we are going to get one for her," Hardy said.

No charges have been filed against England. Hardy said she is free to move about on the sprawling Fort Bragg complex and may leave the post to visit nearby Fayetteville, North Carolina, but has chosen not to do so because of fears that media would trail her.

Asked if he expected charges to come, Hardy said, "We are hoping not but we believe she may be ... They've charged six other people [among the eight publicly identified as suspects] that haven't shown up in quite as many photographs as she has, so we're wondering what's taking them so long, why are they leaving her out?"

Hardy said England joined the reserves to get money for college, and aspired to be a meteorologist.

"She was an administrative assistant and personnel clerk [with her unit]. That's all she's been trained in by the military," Hardy said.

England and Graner are members of the 372nd Military Police Company, which was sent to Iraq to help guard Iraqi prisoners.

Klinestiver and Goin repeatedly said that they believed England was doing what someone else had told her to do when she posed for the pictures inside Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, Iraq.

"She was asked to appear in the photos," Klinestiver said, without identifying who might have made such a request.

"She follows orders. That's what her job in the military is to do -- follow orders of her superior officers," Klinestiver said, adding that she is proud of her sister and "anybody else in the 327th."

Klinestiver and Goin used words such as "good-hearted," kind, dependable and athletic to describe England and said publicity surrounding the photos is unfairly portraying England.

"She's a caring person," said Goin.

Hardy added, "You can't see everything in a photo. ... That's not the type of person she is. We think that when this all comes to light, she will not be depicted as she's being depicted now."


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