The first U.S. military intelligence soldier to be court-martialled over the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal has been sentenced to eight months in jail, a reduction in rank and a bad conduct discharge. Specialist Armin Cruz, 24, had pleaded guilty to maltreatment and conspiracy to maltreat detainees at the prison near Baghdad on the night of October 25, 2003. The court martial accepted his guilty plea. As the first intelligence soldier to be tried, Cruz's case was significant because the Pentagon maintains the abuse was the work of a few renegade military police acting on their own accord, not on the orders of intelligence personnel. In emotional testimony before being sentenced, Cruz told the court he took full responsibility for his actions but offered few explanations. "I knew my actions were wrong," he said. "There's no way to justify it." At one point Judge James Pohl asked him to say why he thought he had done what he did. "There's no very good reason, sir," said Cruz, a military intelligence analyst. Cruz, one of eight people to be indicted for abusing Iraqi detainees in an affair which provoked worldwide outrage when it broke in April, was the second to be sentenced, informs Reuters. According to the Statesman, specialist Armin J Cruz (24), of Plano, Texas, pleaded guilty minutes after his special court martial hearing opened but the judge’s deliberations extended until afternoon. “He has been sentenced to reduction to private, confinement for eight months and a bad-conduct discharge. His confinement location has not yet been determined,” said military spokesman Lt-Col. Steven Boylan. In an ironic twist, the hearing coincided with the third anniversary of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington that left nearly 3,000 people dead. The abuses at Abu Gharib prison have been linked to a serious breakdown at US military’s detention centres as the Pentagon introduced new “get-tough” interrogation methods in the aftermath of September 11. Cruz, of the 502nd Military Intelligence battalion confessed to ordering soldiers to force naked and handcuffed Iraqi detainees to crawl so their genitals dragged on the floor. He also admitted to conspiring with military police to cover up the abuse of Iraqi detainees and mistreating subordinates as he carried out the cover-up. Six character witness testimonies from Cruz’s peers were heard in the makeshift courtroom inside the heavily-fortified US and Iraqi headquarters in Baghdad.
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