Aug 20, 2007
The court martial of the only US Army officer charged over the abuse scandal at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison has begun, but two key counts have been dismissed.
Lt-Col Steven Jordan, 51, is accused of cruelty to detainees and dereliction of duty. Charges of lying on oath and making a false statement were dropped.
The inquiry was triggered by pictures of US soldiers humiliating and abusing Iraqi prisoners in 2003 and 2004.
Lt-Col Jordan has pleaded innocent and says he is being used as a scapegoat.
If convicted on all charges, he faces a maximum penalty of eight and a half years in prison.
Two of the most serious charges against him were dismissed after an investigating officer told the court he had not read Lt-Col Jordan his rights during a 2004 interview.
The first charge dropped was that Lt-Col Jordan had made a false official statement. The second was one of lying while being questioned on oath.
The court martial is taking place at Fort Meade, Maryland, and is expected to last two weeks.
Lt-Col Jordan was in charge of the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Centre at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison during the second half of 2003.He is accused of illegally approving the use of nudity and dogs in interrogations of Iraqi prisoners.
He is also charged with dereliction of duty and with disobeying an order not to discuss the investigation with others.
Lt-Col Jordan's defence has argued that although he was nominally in charge of the interrogation centre, he devoted his efforts to improving living conditions for soldiers posted there and the parameters for interrogations were set by other officers.
In an interview with the Washington Post last month, Lt-Col Jordan said he was being used as a scapegoat by officials who see him as expendable because he is a reservist.
The issue of Abu Ghraib came to light in April 2004 after images emerged of US troops abusing prisoners. The footage included naked prisoners placed in humiliating positions and detainees cowering from aggressive dogs.
Lt-Col Jordan did not appear in any of those photographs.
Eleven soldiers have been convicted of carrying out abuses at Abu Ghraib prison.
They include Specialist Charles Graner Jr, who was sentenced in 2005 to 10 years in prison on counts including assault, maltreatment and indecent acts.
Private Lynndie England, who was photographed holding a naked Iraqi prisoner by a leash and pointing to a naked inmate's genitals, was jailed for three years in 2005.
Janis Karpinski, the prison commander in Iraq at the time of the Abu Ghraib scandal, was demoted from the rank of general but was not charged.
The BBC's Jamie Coomarasamy in Washington says that whatever the verdict in Lt-Col Jordan's trial, many will continue to believe that there are those far higher up the military and civilian chain of command who should answer for an episode that did such damage to the image of the US military.