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Soldier appeals Abu Ghraib conviction

By David Dishneau
Associated Press / October 15, 2009

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WASHINGTON - A female soldier who was photographed giving a smiling “thumbs-up’’ beside a pyramid of naked Abu Ghraib detainees should have her criminal conviction overturned because parading prisoners in the nude was apparently Army policy, her lawyer told the military’s highest court yesterday.

Defense attorney Frank J. Spinner also told the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces it was like “a fraternity-type prank’’ when former Army Specialist Sabrina D. Harman helped place a hooded detainee atop a box with electrical wires in his hands.

Prosecutor Army Captain Stephanie Cooper countered that any reasonable observer would conclude that such conduct was abusive. She dismissed Spinner’s contentions that Harman and other soldiers were ill trained as prison guards and confused about what was permitted at the prison.

The five judges could decide within months whether to overturn any of Harman’s convictions, including six counts of maltreatment and dereliction of duty. Harman, 32, of Lorton, Va., served three months of a six-month prison sentence after her conviction in 2005. She also was reduced in rank to private and faces a bad-conduct discharge unless her appeal succeeds.