WASHINGTON – A leading figure in the Abu Ghraib (search) prisoner abuse scandal has been relieved of his command, the Army announced on Thursday. It also confirmed that the officer, Col. Thomas M. Pappas (search), had been reprimanded and fined but will not face criminal prosecution.
An announcement from U.S. Army Europe headquarters in Heidelberg, Germany, said Gen. B.B. Bell (search), the top Army general in Europe, relieved Pappas of command of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade (search).
Pappas had faced the possibility of criminal prosecution under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but received instead what the military calls nonjudicial punishment under Article 15 of the code.
Pappas is among the highest ranking d officers whose actions have been scrutinized in the abuse scandal. Only one general — Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski (search) of the Army Reserve — has been punished. She was demoted to colonel and relieved of command of the 800th Military Police Brigade (search).
Army officials speaking on condition of anonymity had revealed on Wednesday that Pappas had been reprimanded and fined, but they said the question of whether he would lose his command had not been settled.
Thursday's announcement said the punishment for Pappas was effective May 9.
Pappas was not accused of ordering abuse or participating in it, but the Army said some soldiers under his command were involved and he was faulted for two instances of dereliction of duty.
Maj. Gen. Bennie Williams, who decided not to press criminal charges, ordered Pappas to repay $8,000 in salary and gave him an official letter of reprimand. Taken together the penalties essentially stop him from being promoted in rank and thus hasten the end of his career.
Williams is commander of the 21st Theater Support Command. He was given the task of deciding the Pappas case because Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the 5th Corps commander who might otherwise have handled it, had to recuse himself in light of questions about his own role in Abu Ghraib. The Army recently cleared Sanchez and two other generals of any wrongdoing in the matter.
Pappas had the option of refusing the nonjudicial punishment and contesting the allegations in a court martial, but he chose not to.
The Army said it verified a finding by previous Army investigations that Pappas had failed to obtain approval from superior commanders before authorizing an unsanctioned interrogation method: the presence of military dogs during interrogations as a method of scaring prisoners.
The Army also said Pappas was derelict in his duties by failing to ensure that soldiers under his command were informed of, trained in and supervised in the application of interrogation procedures.
The Abu Ghraib abuses happened mainly in the fall of 2003. They evoked outrage around the world when photographs were published in April 2004 depicting U.S. soldiers subjecting naked Iraqi detainees to sexual humiliation and physical abuse. One senior Army investigator described the abuses as "sadistic, blatant and wanton" criminal acts. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said he twice offered his resignation to President Bush in response to the public outcry, but Bush rejected the offers and asked him to stay for a second term.