BAGHDAD - President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld should take the witness stand at the trial of a U.S. soldier charged with abusing prisoners in Iraq, the soldier's lawyer said on Monday.
Policies adopted in Bush's "war on terror" created a climate encouraging cruelty, said lawyers for U.S. soldiers accused of subjecting detainees to sexual humiliation and physical abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.
"No one can suggest with a straight face that the MPs (military police) acted alone," said defense lawyer Guy Womack, representing Specialist Charles Graner, who faces the most serious charges of the soldiers to be court martialed.
"They were directly under the supervision of military intelligence officers," he told reporters after a pretrial hearing.
Pretrial hearings were held on Monday for Specialist Charles Graner -- who faces the most serious charges of all the Abu Ghraib accused -- and Sergeant Javal Davis.
Davis's defense counsel Paul Bergrin said Bush and Rumsfeld sidestepped the Geneva Convention, encouraging abuse that stretched down the chain of command to the soldiers at Abu Ghraib, notorious as a torture center under Saddam Hussein.
He said his client -- accused of jumping on a pile of prisoners and stomping on their feet -- was instructed on a daily basis to soften up Iraqi prisoners to obtain intelligence.
"Bush gave a speech declaring his war on terror and said the Geneva Convention no longer applied," he told reporters after an impassioned address in the court room.
Bergrin said he would seek to put both Bush and Rumsfeld on the stand as witnesses.
A scheduled hearing for Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederick was postponed to July 23 after his civilian defense counsel, Gary Myers, failed to turn up in court, despite the judge's earlier rejection of his request to represent his client by telephone to avoid the violent chaos gripping Iraq.
ABU GHRAIB "A CRIME SCENE"
During Monday's hearing, the U.S. military judge handling the case agreed to Bergrin's request to question top American generals, testimonies the defense counsel hopes to use to show that abuses were sanctioned from the top down.
Judge Colonel James Pohl said Central Command chief General John Abizaid and Iraq commander Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez and others could be interviewed.
The U.S. army, keen to demonstrate it is weeding out the culprits, has charged seven low-ranking suspects in relation to abuse at Abu Ghraib, which U.S. officials have blamed on a few wayward individuals.
Pohl ordered the prison be preserved as a "crime scene," despite an offer by Bush to tear down the building. Bergrin said he wanted to take members of the jury to the jail so they could experience the conditions U.S. soldiers were working under.
"We want the court members to smell the fecal matter and the urine that service members who worked inside that prison and who are accused in this case had to live with," he said.
No date has been set for the start of any trial for the three defendants, who have yet to plead.
Graner, who faces the most serious accusations, could be sentenced to up to 24 years and six months in jail if convicted.
He is accused of photographing a detainee being dragged on a leash, and posing for a picture by a pile of naked detainees.
Graner is also charged with making prisoners strip and masturbate in front of each other, and forcing one detainee to simulate oral sex on another, before taking a picture.
Frederick faces charges including participating in an incident where a prisoner was hooded and made to stand on a box with wires attached to him, and told he would be electrocuted if he fell off -- an image splashed on front pages worldwide.
One U.S. soldier, Specialist Jeremy Sivits, has already been sentenced to a year in prison after admitting abuse charges.
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