FORT HOOD, Texas – The soldier accused of being the ringleader in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse (search) case may be called to testify Thursday, a day after his lawyers opened the defense's case in his trial.
Under questioning from Graner's lawyers on Wednesday, an Iraqi detainee admitted he simply could not be sure whether Army Spc. Charles Graner (search) was just following orders to beat the prisoner.
"I was continually being beaten all the time, I don't remember," Mohanded Juma said Wednesday in video-recorded testimony for the defense in the first trial to come out of the Abu Ghraib scandal. "All I care about is to save myself."
Juma's spotty memory fit a frustrating pattern for the defense in its effort to lay blame for the abuses on ruthless intelligence officers who controlled that section of the prison and its guards.
Witnesses called in Graner's defense tended to offer less-than-certain testimony about who was in charge of what at Abu Ghraib. On occasion, their testimony became fodder for prosecutors.
Master Sgt. Brian Lipinski, one of Graner's superiors at Abu Ghraib, was put on the stand to testify that interrogators were pleased with the defendant's ability to soften up prisoners for questioning.
But Lipinski also told the court that Graner repeatedly disobeyed orders to cut his hair, wear a regulation uniform and to stay away from Pfc. Lynndie England (search), with whom he was reportedly having an affair.
"He just didn't like to follow orders?" prosecutor Maj. Michael Holley asked Lipinski during cross-examination.
"That's true, sir," Lipinski said.
"He wants to do his own thing?" Holley said.
"Yes, sir," the sergeant said.
England, who is awaiting trial on Abu Ghraib abuse charges, gave birth in October to a child who prosecutors say was fathered by Graner.
Graner, a 36-year-old reservist from Uniontown, Pa., is charged with offenses including conspiracy, assault and committing indecent acts and could get 17½ years in a military prison.
Among other things, he is accused of stacking naked detainees in a human pyramid and later ordering them to masturbate while other soldiers took photographs. He also allegedly punched one man in the head hard enough to knock him out, and struck an injured prisoner with a collapsible metal stick.
Lipinski also testified Graner initially lied about the cause of face and neck injuries suffered by a prisoner in November 2003.
Graner said the detainee tripped on a pile of rubble in the prison; he later admitted to slamming the prisoner against the wall, Lipinski said. The impact was hard enough to leave blood on the wall.
Roger Brokaw, a civilian intelligence officer who worked at Abu Ghraib, though not with Graner, said physical and psychological techniques were used to make detainees more cooperative, but he thought Graner and other Abu Ghraib guards made up their own rules.
"They assumed all Iraqis were terrorists and needed discipline," Brokaw said. "It had nothing to do with the interrogation process."
Brokaw, however, acknowledged his superiors pushed hard for useful information from prisoners.
"There was pressure on us to fill quotas," he said. "We had to interrogate so many detainees per week and produce so many reports with intelligence value per week."