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US civilian defense contractors on trial for Abu Ghraib abuses

[JURIST] Two American military contractors go on trial Wednesday for their alleged involvement in the torture of prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison [JURIST news archive]. The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights brought a racketeering lawsuit [JURIST report; CCR materials] in 2004 against two civilian defense contractors, Titan and CACI International [corporate websites], accusing the companies of conspiring to torture, rape and kill Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Titan provided translators to the US Army and CACI provided interrogators. Both companies are expected to file a motion to dismiss at the hearing scheduled for Wednesday, arguing that there is no jurisdiction. AFP has more.

Photographs [JURIST report] of US interrogators abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib surfaced in April 2004 and substantiated allegations of abuse at the facility. The scandal damaged the US Army's and government's reputations across the world, especially in the Middle East. On Monday, Former US Army Reserve Staff Sergeant Ivan "Chip" Frederick [BBC profile] was released on parole [JURIST report] from a military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he was incarcerated for three years after pleading guilty [JURIST report] to abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Frederick, who admitted to punching and stomping on detainees as well as forcing them to masturbate in photographs and threatening electrocution, claims the Army hierarchy created an environment of abuse and, in some cases, ordered the specific tactics used. Former Abu Ghraib commander Janis Karpinski has alleged [JURIST report] that former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld [official profile] personally ordered "making prisoners stand for long periods, sleep deprivation ... [and] playing music at full volume" at Abu Ghraib. The White House has denied [JURIST report] that President Bush had knowledge of the abuse before the publication of the photographs, despite allegations to the contrary by retired US Army Major General Antonio Taguba [NPR profile], who investigated [report, PDF] the abuse in 2004.

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