FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- Seeking to discredit claims that Private First Class Lynndie England was following orders, prosecutors portrayed her yesterday as an out-of-control soldier who was photographed mocking Iraqi prisoners "just for fun."
On the first day of a hearing to determine whether England should be court-martialed for her actions at Abu Ghraib prison, witnesses testified that the naked detainees shown with her in human pyramids and tethered to a leash were common criminals of little or no value to interrogators, abused only for sport.
An Army investigator, Paul Arthur, testified that when he interviewed England about the photos three months before they became public, she told him they were taken while "they were joking around, having some fun, during the night shift."
"It was just for fun, kind of venting their frustration," Arthur testified.
But when asked whether that assessment applied to England, Arthur replied: "She never mentioned that she was frustrated. She said it was more for fun."
Defense lawyers have said that the 21-year-old Army reservist from Fort Ashby, W.Va., was following orders and that the US government has made her a scapegoat for a scandal that stirred outrage in the Arab world.
A second Army investigator, Warren Worth, testified that England never indicated she was an unwilling participant in the photos and that she even took some of the pictures herself.
England is charged with 13 counts of abusing detainees and six counts stemming from the possession of sexually explicit photos the Army has said do not depict Iraqis. The maximum possible sentence is 38 years in prison. England is one of seven reservists from the company who have been charged in the scandal.