BAGHDAD, Iraq – U.S. military announced Thursday that the courts martial of three Army Reservists charged with abusing Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib (search) prison will be transferred from Baghdad to Fort Hood, Texas.
No reason was given for the decision to move the trials to the United States. Lawyers for the accused had been pressing for a change of venue for months, in part because of problems bringing witnesses and attorneys to one of the world's most dangerous cities.
The statement said Graner's trial would begin Jan. 7 but gave no dates for the others.
The Abu Ghraib scandal erupted last spring when photos became public, causing worldwide outrage about the physical abuse and sexual humiliation of inmates. Most of those charged were in Iraq with the 372nd Military Police Company, based in Cresaptown, Maryland.
The scandal generated a worldwide wave of revulsion which raised questions about the treatment of Muslim prisoners captured not only in Iraq but in Afghanistan and elsewhere as part of the Bush Administration's war on terror.
The accused claimed they were ordered by Military Intelligence and civilian contractors to "soften up" prisoners for interrogation and that they were unaware of restrictions against harsh treatment laid down in the Geneva Conventions.
However, no one above the rank of staff sergeant has been charged in the case.
Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits of Hyndman, Pa., was sentenced to one year in jail and a discharge after pleading guilty in May to three counts. Spc. Armin Cruz, 24, a military intelligence soldier from Plano, Texas, was sentenced to eight months and a discharge for his part in the scandal.
Staff Sgt. Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick II of Buckingham, Va., was sentenced Oct. 21 to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to eight counts — the most severe sentence so far.
Earlier this month, Spc. Megan Ambuhl, 30, Centreville, Va., pleaded guilty at a summary court-martial in Baghdad to reduced charges of dereliction of duty for failing to prevent or report the maltreatment. Ambuhl was busted down to a private.