The highest-ranking Army reservist charged in the Abu Ghraib scandal pleaded guilty on Wednesday to eight counts of abusing prisoners and described in graphic detail how he had forced prisoners to masturbate, sucker-punched a hooded detainee and strapped wires to a prisoner who feared that he would be electrocuted if he fell from a box.
Staff Sgt. Ivan L. Frederick II, a 38-year-old corrections officer from Virginia, pleaded guilty at a court-martial at Camp Victory, in western Baghdad, to conspiracy, dereliction of duty, maltreatment of detainees, assault and indecent acts. His plea requires him to cooperate in the prosecution of other abuse cases.
At the same time, the United States military disclosed Wednesday night that a male 26-year-old detainee at Camp Bucca, in southern Iraq, died in custody on Tuesday afternoon after medics unsuccessfully tried to revive him. The military offered few details, saying that an autopsy and investigation will be conducted and that the prisoner “was not being treated for any medical conditions at the time of his death.”
Sergeant Frederick told the judge, Col. James Pohl, that he was following the lead of military intelligence officers but that he knew what he was doing was wrong. In the wiring episode, for example, he said an Army investigator had wanted a prisoner who reportedly knew the whereabouts of soldiers’ remains “stressed out” to talk more, according to a pool report provided by The Associated Press. The investigator said it did not matter how badly the Iraqi was treated “as long as you don’t kill him,” the sergeant said.
One witness, Chief Warrant Officer Kevin Kramer, a military intelligence soldier, cited an e-mail message from the United States command in Baghdad instructing him that “the gloves are coming off, gentlemen, regarding these detainees,” according to the A.P. report. The e-mail message, which was read into evidence, stated that the command “wants the detainees broken.”
Sergeant Frederick said that from his first days at the prison, he saw detainees who were “naked, handcuffed to their doors, some wearing female underclothes” – all on the orders of military intelligence officers. “Nudity was to humiliate and degrade them for military intelligence purposes,” he told the court-martial. “It was very embarrassing for an Arabic male to be seen nude by another.”