KUWAIT CITY – Three American soldiers refused to plead Saturday to charges of abusing Iraqi prisoners of war (search), and will face separate court-martials (search) in Jaunary, a military spokesman said.
"All three deferred to plea," Maj. Victor Harris (search) told The Associated Press. "They will do it at the trial."
The charges grew out of an alleged incident May 12 at a U.S. detention facility, Camp Bucca, in southern Iraq. The three soldiers, from the 320th Military Police Battalion (search), based in Ashley, Pa., are accused of punching and kicking Iraqi POWs while escorting them to Camp Bucca.
The soldiers have said they acted in self-defense, that conditions were chaotic at Camp Bucca, and that guards had been harassed and assaulted daily by unruly prisoners.
The three soldiers, Master Sgt. Lisa Marie Girman, 35; Staff Sgt. Scott A. McKenzie, 38; and Spc. Timothy F. Canjar, 21, are accused of dereliction of duty, cruelty and maltreatment of enemy prisoners of war, filling false official statements, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
A fourth soldier originally held on the same allegations, Sgt. Shawna Edmondson, 24, has received an other-than-honorable discharge from the military, which she requested rather than face martial proceedings.
The soldiers, who had been stationed at Camp Bucca, were moved to Camp Doha several months ago and suspended from normal duties, but are performing administrative tasks.