FORT HOOD, Texas – A former guard at Abu Ghraib (search) prison testified Thursday that intelligence officers wanted detainees roughed up there, and that Spc. Charles Graner Jr. (search) did not take part in a number of the abuses he is accused of committing.
But the defense witness, former Spc. Megan Ambuhl, admitted under cross-examination that she had had a brief sexual relationship with Graner and remains a close friend.
"And you don't want your friend to go to jail?" asked Maj. Michael Holley, the prosecutor.
"No, sir," she answered.
Ambuhl, who made a plea deal with prosecutors regarding her own actions at Abu Ghraib, also said she lied to investigators who sought to search her personal computer for photos and other evidence of abuse.
Graner, 36, is the first soldier to be tried in the Abu Ghraib scandal and is alleged to be the ringleader of the abuse. He is accused of conspiracy to abuse detainees, assault, dereliction of duty and committing indecent acts, and faces up to 17 1/2 years in prison if convicted.
The defense maintains that military and civilian intelligence agents controlled Graner's area of Abu Ghraib, and that Graner had to follow their orders to soften up prisoners for interrogation.
Ambuhl testified that intelligence officers directed the prison's guards to rough up and sexually humiliate detainees, and that the guards were praised for their efforts.
On one occasion, she said, an intelligence officer known as Steve told guards to "break" a prisoner known as Al Qaeda (search), who was believed to have valuable information.
"Steve told us that we were doing a good job and that breaking Al Qaeda would save a lot of lives," she said.
Another time, she said, two military intelligence officers told Graner to physically abuse a prisoner in a shower.
On Wednesday, the court heard testimony from an Iraqi detainee who admitted he simply could not be sure whether Graner was following orders to beat him.
"I was continually being beaten all the time, I don't remember," Mohanded Juma said. "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 intelligence officers.
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.
Among other things, Graner 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.