Court-martial recommended for Abu Ghraib dog handler

U.S. military hearing officer has recommended a general court-martial for at least one of two Army dog handlers accused of abusing detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

General courts-martial, which are similar to civilian court trials, are reserved for the most serious infractions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Maj. Glenn Simpkins signed the written recommendation Aug. 4, one week after the end of a two-day proceeding at Fort Meade, Maryland, known as an Article 32 hearing, according to a copy of the document obtained by The Associated Press.

Simpkins recommended the Army schedule a general court-martial for Sgt. Santos A. Cardona, 31, of Fullerton, California.

A spokesman at Fort Meade didn't immediately return a telephone call from The Associated Press inquiring whether any further proceedings have been scheduled for either Cardona or his co-defendant, Sgt. Michael J. Smith, 24, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Each is charged with cruelty and maltreatment, conspiracy to maltreat detainees, aggravated assault, dereliction of duty and making false official statements. Smith also is charged with committing an indecent act.

Cardona faces a maximum penalty of 16Ѕ years imprisonment if convicted on all nine counts against him. Smith could be imprisoned for 29Ѕ years if convicted of all 14 counts he faces.

At the hearing, prosecutors sought to portray the dog handlers as rogue soldiers who held contests to see whether their canines could frighten prisoners into urinating or defecating on themselves. Defense lawyers claimed that using unmuzzled dogs to terrify prisoners at Abu Ghraib was sanctioned high up the chain of command.

Investigations into various cases of detainee abuse have found no fault with high-level leaders such as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, although critics charge the military has been unable to properly investigate its top-level leaders, AP reports.

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