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Motion denied for new hearing in Abu Ghraib case

Soldier wanted another Article 32 proceeding on abuse charges


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A sketch shows Defense Counsel Captain Robert Shuck, left, and defendant Staff Sgt. Ivan "Chip" Frederick in the courtroom.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A military judge Tuesday denied a motion that sought a new Article 32 hearing into allegations that Staff Sgt. Ivan "Chip" Frederick abused prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

Col. James Pohl rejected the motion during a nearly two-hour pretrial hearing at Camp Victory, near Baghdad International Airport. The judge said the Article 32 hearing in April substantially complied with the requirements for a general court-martial.

An Article 32 hearing is the equivalent of a grand jury hearing, and the staging of such a hearing would have been akin to dropping the original charges.

Gary Myers, the soldier's civilian attorney, said the initial Article 32 proceeding "was far too cursory and did not provide for us the witnesses or documentary evidence we thought was appropriate. When that occurred, we filed a motion for a new Article 32, which was denied today."

Interviewed by CNN from New Hampshire, Myers said he also plans to pursue a change of venue from Baghdad. He said that the venue "is simply inappropriate for a trial like this" and that he would file a motion to have the location moved.

Along with the Article 32 ruling, the judge ordered the preservation of Abu Ghraib prison, so long as it remains under U.S. control.

In May, President Bush said the United States would tear it down, if the new Iraqi government agreed. But Iraq's interim president has said "demolishing and rebuilding" the facility would be a waste of money.

Also, the judge granted defense access to an appointed investigative assistant and the right to interview military officers up to Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command; the subordinate command structure of Coalition Joint Task Force 7; and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. ground troops in Iraq.

The judge also addressed the issue surrounding Myers' request to represent his client by speaker phones or videophones.

Frederick is charged with assault, maltreating prisoners, conspiracy to maltreat prisoners, dereliction of duty and wrongfully committing an indecent act by watching detainees committing a sexual act.

Seven soldiers have been accused in the prison abuse scandal. In May, Spc. Jeremy Sivits pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in prison and given a bad conduct discharge. The deal allows him to testify against other soldiers involved in the abuse.

On Monday night, the judge sent an e-mail to all parties involved in the courts-martial reminding them that all attorneys must be present at pretrial hearings if they are representing their clients at that stage of the case.

Frederick's hearing was originally set for Monday but was postponed because Myers did not appear in the Baghdad court, citing security concerns and difficulties getting to Iraq.

He sent an e-mail saying that he would allow for Frederick to waive his right to a civilian attorney at the pretrial hearing if he could represent the accused at trial.

Frederick notified the court that he would do so.

The judge asked Frederick again about his decision, and Frederick confirmed his choice, with the understanding that he would still have the right to have a civilian attorney at trial.

Trials for the military police officers charged in the case are not expected to begin before October.

The next stage in the process for the courts-martial will take place July 31 when all parties must submit their final motions for discovery.

All final motions must be submitted to the judge by August 14, and the parties will have one week to respond to those motions.

The judge then will set a trial date.

Spc. Charles Graner, the suspected "ring leader" of the abuse at Abu Ghraib, and Sgt. Javal Davis had their pretrial hearings as scheduled Monday at a coalition headquarters building in central Baghdad. (Full story)

Also, Spc. Sabrina Harmon faces an Article 32 hearing Thursday, according to the military.

All seven are members of the 372nd Military Police Company and have been reassigned to other duties in the aftermath of the charges at the prison outside Baghdad.

England hearing postponed

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A hearing for Pfc. Lynndie England has been postponed until July.

Court-martial proceedings against another soldier, Pfc. Lynndie England, have been delayed in North Carolina until next month. (Full story)

A attorney for England said Tuesday that the resignation of his co-counsel was the cause for the delay.

An Article 32 hearing had been scheduled to start Monday but was postponed until the week of July 12 by mutual agreement of the parties at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, a U.S. Army spokesman said.

Attorney Richard Hernandez of Denver, Colorado, said that Rose Mary Zapor's withdrawal because of her husband's health problems left the remaining defense team scrambling to get up to speed on the case.

Hernandez joined the team two weeks ago when the first volunteer lawyer withdrew because of legal problems in an unrelated case.

Hernandez, who said he planned to spend Tuesday meeting with England at Fort Bragg, said last week that he would discuss a possible plea arrangement with prosecutors. But Tuesday he would not say whether he had done so.

Sources said plea discussions were initiated Monday.

CNN's Ayman Mohyeldin and Jim Polk contributed to this report


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