A military jury at Fort Hood, in Texas, has convicted U.S. Army Specialist Charles Graner for charges related to abuse of Iraqi prisoners of war at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison.
The ten-person jury took only about five hours to come to a decision, returning guilty verdicts on nine out of ten counts. The jury, which consists of army officers and enlisted men who have served either in Iraq or Afghanistan found Specialist Graner guilty of, among other things, dereliction of duty, conspiracy, assault and indecent acts.
The jury is to hear testimony from as many as ten witnesses before convening behind closed doors again to decide on the penalty for the 36-year-old Army reservist. The convicted soldier could receive a sentence of more than 14 years in a military prison.
Earlier in the day, both the prosecution and defense had rested their cases after delivering closing arguments. Prosecutors said evidence presented during the course of the trial, which began Monday, showed that Specialist Graner had abused prisoners for his own amusement, without any justification.
The defense attorney argued that the reservist was following instructions from military intelligence officers who wanted the prisoners roughed up in preparation for interrogations. He also questioned the severity of abuse, comparing the stacking of prisoners on top of one another as no more painful or uncomfortable than similar human pyramids created by cheerleaders at U.S. sporting events.
Prosecutors, however, rejected that description, saying it would only be valid if the cheerleaders had first been stripped naked and physically abused.
During the trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Specialist Graner had not only posed prisoners in lewd and uncomfortable poses, but had punched them and hit them with a metal rod.
Prosecutors relied on e-mail messages sent by Specialist Graner at the time and testimony from three other guards who had plea bargain deals for reduced sentences in exchange for their testimony.
Specialist Graner is the first guard from Abu Ghraib to face military court martial, but two others and a female clerk, Private First Class Lynndie England, are awaiting trial. Private England gave birth last year to a child prosecutors say was fathered by Specialist Graner.