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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 May, 2004, 04:25 GMT 05:25 UK
US restricts Iraq interrogations
A hooded and wired Iraqi prisoner is seen at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, Iraq in this undated photo. (AP Photo/Courtesy of The New Yorker)
The scandal over prisoner abuse has damaged the US case for war in Iraq (AP/Courtesy The New Yorker)
The US military has barred a number of interrogation methods in Iraq, defence officials in Washington say.

The banned methods include sleep and sensory deprivation, and making prisoners assume "stress positions".

The US military has been rocked by revelations about abuse at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison.

Friday saw the army report that a fourth US soldier would soon face a court martial for allegedly mistreating Iraqi inmates.

Prohibited interrogation methods now include depriving prisoners of sleep for more than 72 hours, placing hoods over their heads or making them kneel or stand uncomfortably.

Such methods were approved by the Pentagon in September - although they could only have been used with the permission of the top US commander in Iraq.

There's an enormous amount of subjectivity in the interpretation of the Geneva Conventions
Lawrence Di Rita
Pentagon spokesman

A US military official said such permission was never given.

The rules regarding interrogations came to light as part of congressional inquiries into the abuse scandal.

Several Democratic senators, as well as human rights activists, have said the methods breached the Geneva Convention, which outlaws the physical or moral coercion of prisoners.

Defence officials have, however, strenuously denied that charge, saying all the techniques were legal.

"There's an enormous amount of subjectivity in the interpretation of the Geneva Conventions," Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said.

Court appearances

The change in policy came as the army said Military Police Cpl Charles A Graner would appear before a court on Thursday.

Cpl Charles A Graner (right) and fellow suspect Lynndie England are pictured at Abu Ghraib prison
Seven soldiers, including England and Graner, face charges
He is due to enter a plea on charges including cruelty and maltreatment of detainees.

One abuse suspect, Jeremy Sivits, has made detailed allegations about his colleagues, including Cpl Graner.

Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederick and Sergeant Javal Davis will also appear before the court on Thursday, facing five charges each.

Specialist Jeremy Sivits becomes the first to go on trial on Wednesday.

Seven soldiers have so far been charged over abuse at the jail - three are still waiting to hear if they will face trial.

They include Private Lynndie England, who is pregnant with Cpl Graner's child.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"It's been widespread practice for months, but now hooding has been banned"



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