A lawyer for Spc. Charles Graner Jr., accused ringleader in the &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/mailbox/22/101/397/13888_Iraqi.html ' target=_blank>Iraq prisoner abuse scandal, defended piling naked prisoners in pyramids Monday as valid prisoner control and compared it to shows by cheerleaders.
"Don't cheerleaders all over America form pyramids six to eight times a year. Is that torture?" Guy Womack, Graner's attorney, said in opening statements to the 10-member military jury at the reservist's court-martial.
Graner and Pvt. Lynndie England, with whom he fathered a child and who also is facing a court-martial, became the faces of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal after they appeared in photographs that showed degraded, naked prisoners, reports CNN.
Graner, a 36-year-old former prison guard from Uniontown, Pa., is charged with conspiracy to maltreat Iraqi detainees, assault, dereliction of duty and committing indecent acts.
The defense contends that Graner was told by higher-ranking soldiers and intelligence agents to rough up the detainees prior to interrogation, and that he had no choice but to obey despite personal misgivings.
An all-male jury of four Army officers and six senior enlisted men will decide his fate in what is expected to be a weeklong trial. If convicted on all counts, he faces up to 17 1/2 years in a military prison.
Under military law, a conviction requires guilty votes by seven of the 10 jurors, all of whom have served in either Iraq or Afghanistan, says ABC News.
According to Reuters, the &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/main/2001/09/17/15378.html ' target=_blank>Bush administration has said the actions were those of a small group and were not part of a policy or condoned by senior officers.
But investigations have shown many prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba also suffered abusive treatment after the government considered ways to obtain information in the war against terrorism.
The trial of Graner, a former Pennsylvania civilian prison guard who chatted and joked with his defense attorneys before the hearing opened, was expected to last at least a week.