WORLD / Middle East

No prison for Abu Ghraib dog assault
Updated: 2006-06-03 10:13

A US Army sergeant escaped a prison term, despite being convicted at a court martial of using his unmuzzled dog to assault an inmate at Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib prison.

A military jury sentenced Sergeant Santos Cardona, 32, to hard labour without confinement for 90 days, demoted him one rank to specialist fourth class and docked him 7,200 dollars in wages over the next year.

Cardona, a military policeman, had faced a maximum sentence of up to three and a half years in prison and a dishonorable discharge.

The verdict was handed down Thursday as a storm mounted over misconduct by US troops in Iraq, with the military probing several incidents, including alleged killings of civilians in the town of Haditha by US Marines.

Cardona was the 11th low-ranking soldier convicted over the Abu Ghraib scandal, described last week by President George W. Bush as America's "biggest mistake" in Iraq.

The panel of four officers and three enlisted soldiers found he used his Belgian shepherd dog to commit an aggravated assault by threatening high-ranking Ba'aath Party member Kamel Miza'l Nayil between late 2003 and early 2004. He was also found guilty of dereliction of duty.

But they acquitted Cardona, a veteran of Iraq, Afghanistan and Haiti, on seven other counts, including a more serious charge of using his dog to bite a second Iraqi prisoner.

He was also cleared of using his dog to terrify inmates into defecating and urinating on themselves, for what prosecutors had argued was "entertainment."

The conviction means Cardona will lose his security clearance, and forfeit his right to serve as a military policeman. Consequently, he will be unable to continue as a dog handler, military sources said.
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