Dog handler jailed for Iraq abuse
Wednesday, 22 March 2006
Images of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison shocked the world
US army dog handler Sgt Michael Smith has been jailed for six months for abusing detainees in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison from 2003 to 2004.
Smith, 24, was convicted of using his black Belgian shepherd to menace prisoners for his own amusement.
He expressed no remorse for his actions at the court martial, saying soldiers were not meant to be "soft and cuddly".
Prosecutors said he had competed with another handler to see who could make a detainee soil himself out of fear.
One of the photographs to emerge from Abu Ghraib prison depicts Smith holding his dog inches from the face of a detainee who appears to be cowering in terror.
Sentencing Smith, the military court in Maryland said he would be reduced in rank to a private and must forfeit $750 (£429) a month of his pay for three months.
He will also receive a bad conduct discharge from the military after his release from jail.
Smith is the 10th soldier to be convicted over Abu Ghraib
Smith was convicted of five of the 13 charges he faced on Tuesday, after the jury deliberated for about 18 hours over three days.
He was found guilty of maltreatment of prisoners, conspiring with another dog handler to try to frighten detainees into soiling themselves, dereliction of duty, assault and indecent acts.
The court could have jailed him for up to eight-and-a-half years for the offences.
The prosecution said he had violated rules on treating prisoners humanely and using the minimum amount of force.
He is the 10th US soldier to be convicted over the abuse scandal.
Smith was unrepentant about his actions, telling the court he wished he had learned in basic training how to avoid getting into trouble with his superiors.
Master Sgt Shannon Wilson, Smith's base supervisor at kennels in Fort Riley, Kansas, testified that Smith was an exceptional soldier whose actions did not constitute abuse.
"Anything short of being bit is a psychological deterrent," Sgt Wilson said.
Another dog handler, Sgt Santos Cardona, is to stand trial on 22 May.