Soldier willingly took part in abuse, prosecutors allege

FORT BRAGG, N.C. – Seeking to discredit claims that Pfc. Lynndie England was following orders, prosecutors portrayed her Tuesday as an out-of-control soldier who was photographed mocking Iraqi prisoners “just for fun.”

On the first day of a hearing to determine whether England should be court-martialed for her actions at the prison, witnesses testified that the naked detainees shown with her in human pyramids and tethered to a leash were common criminals of little or no value to interrogators, abused only for sport.

An Army investigator, Paul Arthur, testified that when he interviewed England about the photos three months before they became public, she told him they were taken while “they were joking around, having some fun, during the night shift.”

Arthur said he believed the reservists from the 372nd Military Police Company, based on Cresaptown, Md., were responding to the stress of being in a war zone. Just before the pictures were taken in October 2003, there had been a prison riot at Abu Ghraib and some soldiers had been injured.

“It was just for fun, kind of venting their frustration,” Arthur testified.

But when asked if that assessment applied to England, Arthur replied: “She never mentioned that she was frustrated. She said it was more for fun.”

Defense lawyers have said that the 21-year-old Army reservist from Fort Ashby, W.Va., was following orders from higher-ups and that the U.S. government has made her a scapegoat for an incident that stirred outrage in the Arab world.

Arthur said that England initially told him military intelligence officers allowed the reservists to take the photographs for use in interrogating other prisoners, but there was no indication that ever happened.

“No one said they were going to turn them over to military intelligence,” he testified.

A second Army investigator, Warren Worth, testified that England never indicated she was an unwilling participant in the photos, and that she even took some of the pictures herself.

Worth also described other photos that show England engaging in “oral sodomy” with a soldier, posing nude on a beach or pool, and waving her breasts in the face of a sleeping soldier. When asked whether England ever expressed unease at doing these things, Worth responded: “At no time did she say that.”

One of the prison photos shows England smiling, cigarette in her mouth, as she leans forward and points at the genitals of a naked, hooded Iraqi. Another photo shows her holding a leash that encircles the neck of a naked Iraqi man lying on his side on a cellblock floor, his face contorted.

England is charged with 13 counts of abusing detainees and six counts stemming from possession of sexually explicit photos. The maximum possible sentence is 38 years in prison.

England is one of seven reservists from the 372nd who have been charged in the scandal. One, Spc. Jeremy Sivits, has already pleaded guilty and been sentenced to a year in prison.

Associated Press

Pfc. Lynndie England arrives Tuesday for her hearing at Fort Bragg, N.C., to determine whether she should be court-martialed.

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