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Abu Ghraib dog handler faces court-martial

[JURIST] A military court-martial is set to begin Monday for US Army dog handler Sgt. Michael J. Smith, facing 14 counts of misconduct for using unmuzzled dogs to abuse detainees at Abu Ghraib prison [JURIST news archive] in 2003 and 2004. Military prosecutors contend that Smith was operating outside of protocol when he allowed the unmuzzled animals to bark at and bite detainees during interrogations. Attorneys for Smith are expected to argue that his actions were condoned by his commanders.

The use of dogs at Abu Ghraib prison was started in November 2003 on the recommendation of Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller [Wikipedia profile], then commanding Guantanamo. Miller has said that the dogs there were used to control detainees, but were not approved for use during interrogations. Colonel Thomas Pappas, then the top intelligence officer at the prison, has disputed this [Washington Post report], telling military investigators that Miller told him that dogs had been useful during interrogations, and that they were "effective in setting the atmosphere for which, you know, you could get information." Miller has invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and will not be testifying [JURIST report] at the Smith trial. If convicted, Smith faces 29 1/2 years in prison. The trial of fellow dog handler Sgt. Santos A. Cardona is scheduled to begin in May. AP has more.

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