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Last Updated: Monday, 3 May, 2004, 21:03 GMT 22:03 UK
US troops face Iraq abuse charges
Abu Ghraib prison in a 2003 file photo
Abu Ghraib prison was much feared in Saddam Hussein's era
The US military has filed criminal charges against six of its soldiers who are accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners.

The charges are now being examined by the military equivalent of a grand jury, a US military spokesman told the BBC's Newshour programme.

Six senior US officers were also reprimanded, the army said earlier.

The spokesman, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, said they had not taken part in the criminal actions, but had been responsible for supervising the others.

"Letters of reprimand are for their supervisors, some quite distant from their location... but who still had the responsibility of supervising their people," he said.

The allegations, at Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad, came to light on Thursday, when CBS TV showed photos of Iraqi prisoners being subjected to humiliation and abuse.

In one picture, two Iraqis were forced to simulate oral sex, while observed by laughing guards, while another inmate was connected to wires and told he would be electrocuted if he fell off a box.

The abuses, which occurred in late 2003, are said to have involved about 20 prisoners.

'Despicable acts'

Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of the prison as head of the 800th Military Police Brigade, said she was unaware of the abuse there and was shocked by the photos.

"They were despicable acts," she told ABC television on Monday. "Had I known anything about it, I certainly would have reacted very quickly."

US soldier leads away Iraqi prisoner at Abu Ghraib
Suspected Saddam Hussein loyalists are held at the prison

She said that in one photograph from the prison, there appeared to be more Americans involved in the alleged abuse than the six already charged.

"One photograph showed - it didn't show faces completely, but the photograph showed 32 boots," she said.

She is reportedly among the six reprimanded.

The General Office Memorandum Reprimand prohibits any further promotion and paves the way for dismissal from the army.

A seventh person has been given a "letter of admonishment", a lesser form of reprimand.

All seven are now appealing against the rulings, which were issued last month, but only made public on Monday.

President George W Bush told Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Monday to punish any US troops involved in the "shameful, appalling" abuse of Iraqi prisoners, the White House said.

"Our military does not tolerate prisoner abuse. The images are appalling, and such action is inexcusable," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

'Blame-shifting'

Earlier, General Karpinski said military intelligence officers had been in and out of the high-security cells "24 hours a day".

She said she believed military commanders were trying to shift the blame onto her and other reservists - and away from the intelligence officers still at work in the prison.

"We're disposable," she said. "Why would they want the active-duty people to take the blame?"

Gen Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Sunday that US Army intelligence was looking into allegations that intelligence personnel may have encouraged, or pressured, soldiers to abuse prisoners as part of interrogations.

He spoke after the New Yorker magazine said it had obtained an internal US Army report documenting "sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses of Iraqi prisoners", including beatings and sodomy.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Nick Childs
"The official line in Washington is that this was the actions of a few tarnishing the image of many"



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