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Testimony: Abu Ghraib photos 'just for fun'

Pregnant soldier doesn't return to hearing after lunch

By James Polk

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A hearing for Pfc. Lynndie England's will determine whether she will be court-martialed.
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FORT BRAGG, North Carolina (CNN) -- Testimony was cut short in the first day of a preliminary hearing for Pfc. Lynndie England in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal after she left to consult her doctor rather than return to court following the lunch break.

England, a 21-year-old Army reservist clerk from rural Fort Ashby, West Virginia, is almost seven months pregnant. Her mother, who arrived with her for the morning lunch, was also absent in the afternoon.

England's lawyer, Richard Hernandez, said she had telephoned her doctor at the noon break and he told England to come in.

Hernandez said England, one of seven soldiers who have been charged in the case, was expected back in court Wednesday.

The hearing resumed for roughly an hour to complete cross-examination of the day's second witness, then recessed early. Testimony from two other witnesses was postponed.

The opening witness was special agent Paul Arthur, the military investigator who first questioned England about photos showing her with naked Iraqi detainees in Abu Ghraib prison.

Arthur testified England told him that "it was just for fun."

"They didn't think it was that serious. ... They didn't think it was that big a deal. They were joking around," Arthur said England told him.

The Article 32 hearing is the military's equivalent of a grand jury proceeding in a civilian court. Following the proceeding, the investigating officer, Col. Denise Arn, will decide whether England will face a court-martial.

Arthur testified that another member of the 372nd Military Police Company at Abu Ghraib knocked on his door the night of January 13 and turned over the prison photos taken by Charles Graner, England's boyfriend, who awaits court-martial in Iraq along with four other guards.

A sixth guard, Spc. Jeremy Sivits of Hyndman, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in May and was sentenced to a year in prison, reduced in rank and given a bad conduct discharge.

The plea bargain allowed Sivits to testify against other soldiers involved in the case, and he was among the witnesses listed by the prosecution Tuesday.

Another on the list was Spc. Joseph Darby of Corriganville, Pennsylvania, who turned over the photographs to military investigators.

The hearing is expected to last at least through Friday. As many as 25 witnesses may be called.

Arthur said England told him it was Graner who told her to pose in the now notorious photo in which she held a leash tethered to a naked detainee lying on the prison floor.

He quoted England as saying Graner told her the detainee, referred to as "Gus," was involved in killing U.S.-led coalition forces. England said Graner got the leash and took the photo himself.

Another military investigator, Warren Worth, who conducted a follow-up interview with England a day or two later, was asked whether she was "a willing participant" in the dog leash photo.

"She didn't say she objected to it," Worth testified.

The prosecution asked Arthur if England mentioned being told by anyone else to handle the detainees in the way they were.

He said she told him that happened only once, when photos were taken of a tangled pile of three naked Iraqis who were suspected of raping a teenage boy.

England was quoted as saying military intelligence gave permission "to rough them up" to try to persuade them to talk.

On cross-examination, Arthur said investigators were still looking into the role of military intelligence in the scandal. "That's part of this case. That's still on-going," he said.

He said England wrote a sworn statement after the questioning that recounted what she told him. The prosecution introduced that statement into evidence, but it was not made available publicly.

England is not expected to take the stand at this stage.

England arrives for the hearing Tuesday morning at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

She faces 19 counts of prisoner abuse and sexual misconduct. The maximum penalty on any one count is five years, although the maximum for all charges combined is 38 years.

Hernandez blamed higher-ups for the prison abuse. "Pfc. England is not the end of the black mark on the Army that comes out of the Abu Ghraib scandal," he said.

In May, England told a television station in Denver, Colorado, that others had her pose for the photos.

She named no names but said, "I was told to stand here, point thumbs up, look at the camera and take the picture.

"[The photos] were for psy-op reasons, and the reasons worked. I mean, so to us, we were doing our job, which meant we were doing what we were told, and the outcome was what they wanted."

England's case is the only one in the Abu Ghraib scandal proceeding in the United States. She was transferred to Fort Bragg after becoming pregnant. Graner has been identified as the father.

The hearing had been delayed twice. On July 12, the defense asked that a new military lawyer be appointed to help England's civilian counsel.

Another hearing was put off because a civilian lawyer resigned from the case for personal reasons.

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