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Charges reduced for Iraq jail MP

MANNHEIM, Germany -- A US military policewoman accused in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal had the charges against her reduced yesterday as a set of pretrial hearings wrapped up at an American base in Germany.

The decision by military prosecutors could significantly reduce prison time for Specialist Megan Ambuhl -- one of seven Army reservists charged with abuse of Iraqi prisoners -- if she is found guilty.

Two counts of cruelty and maltreatment and one of conspiracy had been added after the investigation against Ambuhl was completed, a step her lawyers argued was improper and added a possible three more years of prison time.

Prosecutors had said Monday they would reopen the Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury investigation. But Captain Christopher Graveline, the prosecutor, said at a pretrial hearing yesterday that the government had changed its mind.

Ambuhl, of Centreville, Va., now faces a possible 7 years in prison if convicted on one count of conspiracy, dereliction of duty, cruelty and maltreatment, and indecent acts.

The hearing made plain that she is mainly accused of failing to intervene or report abuse at the prison outside Baghdad.

"All the charges that remain before the court are complacency and failure to act or report," her military lawyer, Captain Jennifer Crawford, said in court.

"Specialist Ambuhl is charged basically with inactivity or failure to act," she said. "A natural reaction for a lay person would be: 'I would have done something.' "

Crawford asked the court to approve a civilian prison psychologist to testify for the defense; she said that testimony could help persuade a jury how the conditions at the prison might have affected her client's judgment.

The judge, Colonel James Pohl, would not approve the civilian Crawford wanted, but said if the government could not provide an acceptable military counterpart in the coming weeks he would reconsider the motion.

The rulings were made on the last of three days of pretrial hearings held at a US military base in Mannheim.

The hearings were moved to Germany from Baghdad on a one-time basis.

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