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Defense Rests In Iraq Abuse Trial

The defense for Spc. Charles Graner Jr. rested its case Thursday without the accused ringleader of abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison taking the stand.

The jury of four Army officers and six senior enlisted men was to begin deliberating Friday.

Graner's lawyers had indicated earlier that Graner would probably be the final witness, and that he would offer his version of what occurred.

But Guy Womack, his lead lawyer, said the other defense witnesses provided all of the evidence necessary to make the case that military and civilian intelligence agents controlled Abu Ghraib and ordered Graner to soften up detainees for questioning.

"We came in with a checklist of things we wanted to present to the jury," Womack said. "Once we accomplished that, there was no reason to continue."

Graner, a 36-year-old reservist from Uniontown, Pa., is the first soldier to be tried on charges arising from the Abu Ghraib scandal. He is accused of conspiracy to abuse detainees, assault, dereliction of duty and committing indecent acts, and faces up to 17½ years in prison if convicted.

Graner had appeared glum in recent days, but outside court he said: "I feel fantastic. I'm still smiling."

Earlier Thursday, a former guard at Abu Ghraib prison testified that intelligence officers wanted detainees roughed up there, and that Graner did not take part in a number of the abuses he is accused of committing.

But the defense witness, former Spc. Megan Ambuhl, admitted under cross-examination that she had had a brief sexual relationship with Graner and remains a close friend.

"And you don't want your friend to go to jail?" asked Maj. Michael Holley, the prosecutor.

"No, sir," she answered.

Ambuhl, who made a plea deal with prosecutors regarding her own actions at Abu Ghraib, also said she lied to investigators who sought to search her personal computer for photos and other evidence of abuse.

The defense maintains that military and civilian intelligence agents controlled Graner's area of Abu Ghraib, and that Graner had to follow their orders to soften up prisoners for interrogation.

Ambuhl testified that intelligence officers directed the prison's guards to rough up and sexually humiliate detainees, and that the guards were praised for their efforts.

On one occasion, she said, an intelligence officer known as Steve told guards to "break" a prisoner known as al Qaeda, who was believed to have valuable information.

"Steve told us that we were doing a good job and that breaking al Qaeda would save a lot of lives," she said.

Another time, she said, two military intelligence officers told Graner to physically abuse a prisoner in a shower.

On Wednesday, the court heard testimony from an Iraqi detainee who admitted he simply could not be sure whether Graner was following orders to beat him.

"I was continually being beaten all the time, I don't remember," Mohanded Juma said. "All I care about is to save myself."

Juma's spotty memory fit a frustrating pattern for the defense in its effort to lay blame for the abuses on intelligence officers.

Witnesses called in Graner's defense tended to offer less-than-certain testimony about who was in charge of what at Abu Ghraib. On occasion, their testimony became fodder for prosecutors.

Master Sgt. Brian Lipinski, one of Graner's superiors at Abu Ghraib, was put on the stand to testify that interrogators were pleased with the defendant's ability to soften up prisoners for questioning.

But Lipinski also told the court that Graner repeatedly disobeyed orders.

Among other things, Graner is accused of stacking naked detainees in a human pyramid and later ordering them to masturbate while other soldiers took photographs. He also allegedly punched one man in the head hard enough to knock him out, and struck an injured prisoner with a collapsible metal stick.

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