The soldier who blew the whistle on colleagues abusing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison testified Friday "it was a moral call," because he was outraged by photos of detainees in sexually humiliating positions.
"It violated everything I believed in, rules of war ... it was more of a moral call," Sgt. Joseph Darby said during a pretrial hearing for Pfc. Lynndie England.
"It was a tough decision because these people were my friends," said Darby, who was in the 372nd Military Police Company and, like England, was assigned to duties outside the secure area of the prison.
He said he received the now-notorious abuse photos on computer disks from Cpl. Charles Graner at the beginning of December. Darby said he wanted to see pictures of the aftermath of a prison riot that happened while he was on leave.
As he looked at the photos, "there was quite a large number of prisoners and poses with prisoners," Darby testified by telephone. "I was kind of shocked and bewildered and didn't know what to do."
He turned them over to the Army investigators Jan. 12, testifying that he knew Graner was a ringleader in the abuse and would be returning to the prison soon from another assignment.
"I decided I needed to turn them in now before he came back because I was concerned it was going to start again," said Darby, who is from Cresaptown, Maryland, where the 372nd is based.
His tip led to charges against seven members of the unit and the images outraged people around the world. The photos, first made public on a broadcast of CBS' 60 Minutes II in April, showed naked detainees stacked in human pyramids, posed in sexual positions, hooked to electrodes, and in one notorious shot with England, tethered to a leash.
A military judge is holding the hearing to decide whether England, a 21-year-old reservist from Fort Ashby, West Virginia, should face a military trial on 13 counts of abusing detainees and six counts stemming from possession of sexually explicit photos. If convicted, she could get up to 38 years in prison.
Throughout the hearing, prosecutors have contended that England and some members of the 372nd were rogue soldiers who went outside the chain of command to abuse prisoners for retaliation and sport on the night shift at Abu Ghraib.
Defense lawyers, who planned to begin calling witnesses later Friday, have said England posed in the photos on orders from military intelligence to "soften up" detainees for interrogators.
Among witnesses defense attorney Rick Hernandez said he wants to testify are the former top commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, and Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who ran the Abu Ghraib prison. The judge, Col. Denise Arn, was noncommittal and said it would be handled later.
In testimony Thursday, military interrogators said they saw reservist guards putting naked prisoners in sexual poses, and torturing them by forcing them to drag their genitals on the ground and keeping them unclothed in their cells 24 hours a day. But they acknowledged failing to properly report the incidents up the chain of command.
Capt. Carolyn Wood, the top intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib, testified that when the photos finally surfaced, she was appalled.
"Words can't describe my reaction," Wood said. "I was shocked. I was very disappointed. I was outraged."
One member of the 372nd, Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits, has already pleaded guilty and been sentenced to a year in prison.
Graner also has been charged with abusing prisoners and adultery for allegedly having sex with England last October. England's lawyers have said she is seven months pregnant with Graner's child.