MANNHEIM, Germany - The highest-ranking Army reservist accused of sexually humiliating Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison indicated yesterday that he will plead guilty to charges of abuse.
Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick would be the second of seven American soldiers charged so far to choose that plea.
"I have accepted responsibility for my actions at Abu Ghraib prison," said a statement signed by Sergeant Frederick. "I will be pleading guilty to certain charges because I have concluded that what I did was a violation of law."
The statement did not specify the charges to which he intends to plead guilty. He is charged with maltreating detainees, conspiracy to maltreat detainees, dereliction of duty, and wrongfully committing an indecent act.
The defense teams for Sergeant Frederick and other
accused Abu Ghraib soldiers have argued that senior officers ordered sexual humiliation, beatings, and other activity at the prison west of Baghdad. It was not the work of renegade, undisciplined guards, they maintain, but part of a strategy to extract intelligence from Iraqi rebels at a time of mounting U.S. casualties.
Sergeant Frederick will appear today before military judge James Pohl, an Army colonel who is also overseeing hearings for Spec. Charles Graner, Spec. Megan Ambuhl, and Staff Sgt. Javal Davis.
The hearings for Specialists Graner and Ambuhl took place yesterday. Those cases against got off to a rocky start.
Colonel Pohl criticized the pace of U.S. investigations into the prison scandal, saying if prosecutors did not move quickly to divulge evidence, he might dismiss charges against one of the accused soldiers.
Colonel Pohl said the incomplete U.S. investigations were hindering progress in the case involving Specialist Graner, a military policeman who appears in many abuse-related photos taken at Abu Ghraib prison. The judge grew irritated when informed that in one probe, a single investigator was assigned to search hundreds of thousands of pages stored in a secret computer server.
"The government has to figure out what they want to do with the prosecution of this case," Colonel Pohl said. He added that if the investigations are not accelerated by next month, he will "seriously revisit" a motion by Specialist Graner's lawyers to dismiss the case at a hearing in Baghdad on Oct. 21. New charges, he said, can be refiled when the reports are completed.
In the afternoon session involving Specialist Ambuhl, Colonel Pohl told prosecutors they must reinvestigate and refile charges against her. In Washington, military officials said an outside panel reviewing American military detention operations has concluded that leadership failures at the highest levels of the Pentagon, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and military command in Iraq contributed to an environment in which detainees were abused.