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Soldier disobeyed orders, witness says

FORT HOOD, Texas -- The first witness for Army Specialist Charles A. Graner Jr., the alleged ringleader in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse case, said under cross-examination yesterday that Graner routinely disobeyed orders while serving as a guard there.

The testimony from Master Sergeant Brian G. Lipinski could undermine Graner's contention that he was following orders to soften up Iraqi inmates for interrogation.

Lipinski, then the top noncommissioned officer in the 372d Military Police Company, said Graner wore his hair too long, altered his uniform in violation of regulations, and refused to stay away from Private First Class Lynndie England after he was repeatedly told to do so.

"He just didn't like to follow orders?" prosecutor Major Michael Holley asked Lipinski.

"That's true, sir," Lipinski said.

"He wants to do his own thing?" Holley said.

"Yes, sir," the sergeant said.

England, who is awaiting trial on charges she abused prisoners at Abu Ghraib, gave birth in October to a child who Army prosecutors say was fathered by Graner.

Graner, a 36-year-old reservist from Uniontown, Pa., is the first soldier to stand trial in the scandal. The charges against him include conspiracy, assault, and committing indecent acts. Graner could face serving 17 years in a military prison.

Among the charges, he 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.

Lipinski also testified that Graner initially lied about the cause of face and neck injuries suffered by a prisoner in November 2003. Lipinski said Graner and then-Staff Sergeant Ivan L. Frederick II first told Lipinski that the detainee tripped on a pile of rubble in the prison. Graner later admitted he slammed the prisoner against the wall, Lipinski said. The impact was hard enough to leave a smear of blood on the wall.

Lipinski was called by the defense as a way to introduce a report about the wall-slamming incident, because the report included references to military intelligence officers praising Graner and others for softening up prisoners for interrogation.

Roger Brokaw, a civilian intelligence officer who worked at Abu Ghraib but not with Graner, said physical and psychological techniques were used to make detainees more cooperative. "They assumed all Iraqis were terrorists and needed discipline," Brokaw said. "It had nothing to do with the interrogation process."

Brokaw acknowledged that higher-ups pushed hard for useful information from prisoners. "There was pressure on us to fill quotas," he said.

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