US soldier sentenced for Abu Ghraib role

A MILITARY jury last week sentenced an Army reservist to six months in prison for abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The scandal rocked the US military’s image at home and abroad.

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By  Rhys Jones Published  May 22, 2005

A MILITARY jury last week sentenced an Army reservist to six months in prison for abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The scandal rocked the US military’s image at home and abroad. Army special Sabrina Harman, 27, was convicted on six of the seven charges she faced for her role in the mistreatment of prisoners in 2003. She appeared in several of the most notorious photos taken at Abu Ghraib. Before her sentencing, Harman stood before the jury at her court-martial last Tuesday and tearfully apologised for mistreating Iraqi prisoners. “As a soldier I failed in my duties and in my mission,” said Harman. “Not only did I let down the people in Iraq, I let down every single soldier that serves today. My actions potentially caused an increased hatred and insurgency towards the United States, putting soldiers and civilians at greater risk,” she added. Among other things, she was found guilty of taking part in an incident in which a hooded Iraqi was photographed standing on a box holding wires. With credit for time served, Harman’s actual sentence will be about four months. Defence lawyer Frank Spinner said his client was offered the chance to plead guilty last year with a two-year sentencing cap, but Harman turned down the proposal. “I felt very strongly for Sabrina Harman,” said Spinner. “I feel she’s a very naive, very innocent person ... She didn’t know how to react to that experience at Abu Ghraib,” he added. Prosecutors said in a written statement that they were pleased to bring Harman’s case to its conclusion “as we strive to air all the facts regarding Abu Ghraib”. Harman was the second low-level soldier from the Maryland-based 372nd Military Police Company to go to trial on Abu Ghraib charges. Private Charles Graner Junior was found guilty in January and is serving a 10-year sentence. Four other soldiers from the 372nd made plea deals with prosecutors, as did two soldiers from a military intelligence unit operating at Abu Ghraib. Earlier, witnesses testified that the former pizza shop manager was kindhearted and helpful while serving in an Iraqi city. Much of the defence testimony during sentencing focused on her behaviour while at the Iraqi city of Hillah, where the 372nd Military Police Company was based for several months before moving to Abu Ghraib. Two Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, whose testimony was read into the record, said Harman’s gentle treatment was unique among the guards in the part of the prison reserved mostly for detainees believed to have intelligence value. “She has no cruelty in her,” said Amjad Ismail Khalil Al Taie through an interpreter.

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