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Private’s Hearing in Prison Abuse Delayed

June 22, 2004

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ A military court hearing to determine whether Pfc. Lynndie England will be tried on charges that she abused prisoners at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison has been delayed until next month, a Fort Bragg spokeswoman said Monday.

The Article 32 hearing had been scheduled to start Tuesday. Both sides in the case agreed to delay the hearing until July 12, spokeswoman Jackie Thomas said.

No information on the reason for the postponement was available. England’s lead attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.

England is the Army reservist photographed holding a naked Iraqi prisoner by a leash and smiling and giving the thumbs-up in other pictures.

It would have been the first hearing in the United States stemming from the abuse scandal at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison. England’s Colorado-based lawyers were expected to argue that the 21-year-old only posed in the photos on specific orders from higher ups.

The lawyers had assembled a witness list of nearly 100 people, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. But military spokesmen said it was doubtful the big names would be at the hearing.

England faces 13 counts, including three of assaulting detainees, one of conspiracy, one of committing indecent acts and eight of taking photos and posing prisoners in photos. If convicted on all counts, she would face a dishonorable discharge and up to 15 1/2 years in prison.

In her statement to investigators _ obtained and published Monday by Newsday _ England described the photographs to investigators as ``funny.″ At one point, she described a picture of one Iraqi sitting on the shoulders of another as ``basically us fooling around.″

Defense lawyer Rose Mary Zapor has said the statement was made after England asked for a lawyer, but didn’t get to talk to one.

England, a support specialist from Fort Ashby, W.Va., is one of six soldiers who still face charges in the scandal; Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits, has already pleaded guilty and been sentenced to a year in prison.

The Article 32 proceeding is the equivalent of a civilian grand jury. The presiding officer, Col. Denise Arn, was prepared to start the process of deciding if there is enough evidence to send the case on to a military trial, or court-martial.

England has given just two interviews since the story broke. In one aired Monday on NBC’s ``Today″ show, England said people sometimes approach her to shake her hand and tell her that she did exactly what was needed.

England is five months’ pregnant by another defendant in the case, Spec. Charles Graner Jr. The conspiracy charge against England accuses her and Graner of mistreating the prisoners and Graner is charged with adultery for having sex with England.

The pair are among seven soldiers from the 372nd Military Police Company, an Army Reserve unit from Cresaptown, Md., who were charged in the case.

England is stationed at Fort Bragg because it was the post she reported to before heading to Iraq.

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