At Fort Hood, in Texas, a military court has sentenced U.S Army Specialist Charles Graner to ten years in prison for abuse of Iraqi detainees at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison.
In addition to the ten-year prison sentence, Specialist Graner will be reduced in rank to private and will be dishonorably discharged from the army. The maximum prison sentence he could have received was 15 years. The jury in the military court martial found him guilty of nine out of ten counts on Friday. Among the charges for which he was convicted were conspiracy, battery and indecent acts.
The 36-year-old reservist was described by pool reporters in the courtroom as standing at attention and expressing no emotion as the sentence was read.
Before the sentencing took place, Specialist Graner testified before the jury, saying that he had only followed orders given to him by superior officers. He admitted that some of the things he had done were criminal and that he had not been trained by the army to carry out such acts. He said some acts, which he characterized as weird had been suggested by civilian contractors working with intelligence officers.
Graner's attorney, Houston-based civilian Guy Womack, had argued in the weeklong trial that the soldier was being made a scapegoat in order to protect higher-ranking officers. Mr. Womack said intelligence officers had ordered guards at Abu Ghraib to rough up prisoners in preparation for interrogation.
But prosecutors rejected that idea and presented evidence from witnesses and from some of Specialist Graner's own email messages, indicating that he had carried out much of the abuse for his own amusement. They portrayed him as the ringleader of the guards committing abuses at the prison.
The abuses at Abu Ghraib became known early last year when photographs, many of them taken by Specialist Graner, were broadcast and printed by the news media. The images of naked prisoners being abused drew a reaction of shock and anger from throughout the world.
Specialist Graner was 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. Three other guards from the prison pleaded guilty and were given lighter sentences in exchange for their testimony against Specialist Graner.