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US military high court hears Abu Ghraib appeal

The US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces [official website] on Monday heard arguments [Windows Media file; materials] in the appeal of Army Spc. Charles Graner [JURIST news archive], sentenced to 10 years in prison [JURIST report] for abuses committed at the Abu Ghraib prison [JURIST news archive] in Baghdad. Graner, the alleged ringleader of the Abu Ghraib abuse, was convicted [JURIST report] in 2005 of conspiracy, assault, maltreating prisoners, dereliction of duty, and committing indecent acts. Graner's lawyer argued Monday that the defense was denied access to classified documents that may have shown some of the detainee treatment was actually part of the "enhanced interrogation techniques" approved by then-Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The government's lawyer argued that the defense had access to the documents before the trial. A ruling is expected [AP report] by August.

In February, the same court upheld the convictions [JURIST report] of two soldiers found guilty of offenses committed as guards at Abu Ghraib. Army Spc. Sabrina Harman [opinion, PDF] had been convicted [JURIST report] of conspiracy, dereliction of duty and maltreatment of prisoners dating back to November 2003. Sgt. Michael Smith [opinion, PDF], similarly, was found guilty [JURIST report] of conspiracy to maltreat prisoners, dereliction of duty, and indecent acts. Harman first gained notoriety by posing with a thumbs-up sign beside a pyramid of naked detainees, while Smith is best known for using a Belgian shepherd to intimidate prisoners. The appeals court upheld the convictions, finding no reversible error in the decision of the lower court, the Army Court of Criminal Appeals. Last May, the Obama administration decided not to release photographs [JURIST report] allegedly depicting rape and sexual assault carried out against Abu Ghraib detainees. In 2006, Abu Ghraib was turned over to Iraqi authorities and has since been renamed Baghdad Central Prison [JURIST report].

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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