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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 January, 2005, 02:08 GMT
Abu Ghraib troops 'did not abuse'
Spc Charles Graner arrives for the start of his military trial at Fort Hood, Texas
Graner says whatever happens, he hopes to have a smile on his face
Notorious photographs of human pyramids and tethered Iraqi prisoners do not prove that US troops abused detainees in Iraq, a military court has heard.

Specialist Charles Graner is facing a court martial for his role in alleged abuses at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib jail.

Spc Graner could face a 17-year sentence if found guilty. Three other soldiers have already been convicted.

Defence attorney Guy Womack insisted a tether is a "valid tool", and denied that the photos depicted real abuse.

He compared pictures of naked Iraqi prisoners in a human pyramid to cheerleaders at US sports events, who form pyramids "all over America".

"Is that torture?" he asked, opening Spc Graner's defence on Monday.

The soldier, who was pictured smiling in a number of the Abu Ghraib pictures, denies assault and conspiracy to mistreat prisoners.

Some of the pictures were shown by the prosecution as the court martial got under way at the Fort Hood army base in Texas on Monday.

'Lasso them'

In his opening statements, prosecutor Major Michael Holley graphically described some of the acts allegedly carried out by Spc Graner.

He claimed the military policeman beat an Iraqi prisoner with a baton until he begged to be killed, and forced male inmates to simulate oral sex.

A group of bound Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, Iraq in this undated photo. (AP Photo/Courtesy of The New Yorker)
Pte Jeremy Sivits
Sgt Ivan Frederick
Specialist Megan Ambuhl

Facing trial:
Pte Lynndie England
Specialist Charles Graner
Sgt Javal Davies
Specialist Sabrina Harman

Referring to pictures showing Spc Graner standing next to a pile of naked Iraqis, Spc Graner's lawyer said "pyramids" could legitimately be used as a "control technique".

Another photo featured Pte Lynndie England, who has since had a child with Graner, leading a prisoner on a leash.

Mr Womack said tethers were "a valid tool" when dealing not only with prisoners, but also with children.

"You've probably been at a mall or airport and seen children on tethers; they're not being abused," he argued.

"You're keeping control of them. A tether is a valid control to be used in corrections," he said.

"In Texas we'd lasso them and drag them out of there."

He said the soldiers took pictures of each other "because no one did anything they thought was wrong".

The soldier's defence says the abuse was sanctioned by his superiors.

"He was doing his job. Following orders and being praised for it," Mr Womack told the court.

Spc Graner, in his dark green dress uniform, chatted and joked with his defence team before the hearing began, but showed no reaction during the proceedings.

His trial is expected to last at least a week.

"Whatever happens is going to happen, but I still feel it's going to be on the positive side and I'm going to have a smile on my face," Spc Graner said last week.

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