July 26, 2005

Military dog handlers face Abu Ghraib hearing

By Sue Pleming

FORT MEADE, Md. (Reuters) - Two dog handlers in Iraq's Abu
Ghraib prison used unmuzzled dogs to threaten prisoners and
competed to see who could make inmates urinate on themselves,
according to testimony at a military hearing on Tuesday.

Sgt. Santos Cardona, 31, and Sgt. Michael Smith, 24, are
suspected of intentionally scaring detainees at the infamous
Baghdad prison between November 2003 and January 2004 during
the height of the prison-abuse scandal.

Tuesday's proceedings for the dog handlers at Fort Meade
military base outside Washington were part of an Article 32
hearing, the military equivalent of a pretrial hearing that
determines whether the two sergeants face courts-martial.

Disturbing photos of dogs barking and growling at inmates
were broadcast worldwide and became a focal point of the abuse
scandal. In other trials, several U.S. soldiers have already
been sentenced for abusing prisoners, with jail terms up to 10

According to statements given to military investigators
last year, U.S. intelligence personnel ordered military dog
handlers to use unmuzzled dogs to intimidate detainees at Abu

Smith and Cardona told investigators that military
intelligence personnel asked them to bring their dogs to prison
interrogation sites. The use of unmuzzled dogs to humiliate and
intimidate detainees is a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Pvt. Ivan Frederick, convicted of abusing prisoners at Abu
Ghraib, testified that Cardona and Smith were brought in to
frighten prisoners. Frederick is serving an eight-year prison
term at Fort Leavenworth prison in Kansas.

He said in one instance Cardona's dog bit an inmate twice
on the left and right thighs. The inmate was suspected of
trying to escape the prison and had lunged at one of the
guards, he said.

"He (Cardona) released his dog and it bit him on the left
thigh area," said Frederick.

He said the frightened detainee had tried to run out of the
cell and the dog was set on him a second time.

Frederick said the military police dog handlers told him
they were in a competition to see how many detainees they could
scare into urinating and defecating on themselves.

"They were kind of laughing about it," Frederick said.

Cardona's civilian defense lawyer Harvey Volzer said
Frederick was testifying in a bid to have his sentence reduced
and cast doubt on his testimony.

Another witness, Spec. John Ketzer, also testified by
telephone and said the dogs had been used to frighten two
juvenile detainees.