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HAGERSTOWN, Md. — The highest-ranking U.S. soldier convicted of abusing detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison was released on parole Monday after serving less than half of an 8-year sentence in a case that sparked worldwide condemnation of the U.S. military's presence in Iraq.
Former Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick, 40, was released from a military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., after serving three years, said his lawyer, Gary Myers.
Frederick was accused of abuse, including placing wires in a detainee's hands and telling him he would be electrocuted if he fell off a box. That photo, along with others showing Iraqi detainees in humiliating positions next to grinning U.S. troops, cast a pall on the U.S. military's presence in Iraq after the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003.
The scandal was among the first in a series of allegations of abuse and murder of Iraqis that have resulted charges against more than two dozen U.S. troops. The cases have served as fodder for criticism in the Arab and Muslim world, and elsewhere, of the U.S.'s continued presence in the war-torn country.
Eleven U.S. soldiers were convicted in the Abu Ghraib case. The sole officer to face court-marital in the case, Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, was given a reprimand for disobeying a general's order not to discuss the investigation. Jordan was acquitted of abuse charges.
Myers said Frederick's cooperation with prosecutors, including his testimony at Jordan's trial in August, aided in his early release.
"Chip Frederick was never a ‘bad apple' as the Army tried to portray him," Myers said in an e-mailed statement to The Associated Press. "Frederick recognized that he had done wrong and, like the decent man that he is, pleaded guilty to some of the charges against him."
Myers said Frederick's prosecution was a blatant political attempt to shift blame from former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other high-ranking government officials whom Myers said had created an environment in which the Geneva Conventions were disregarded and misconduct was allowed in the name of national security.
Frederick, of the 372nd Military Police Company, of Cresaptown, Md., supervised the night shift in the prison's "hard site," where detainees deemed to be of high intelligence value were held.
At his court-martial in Baghdad in October 2004, Frederick admitted placing the wires in the hooded detainee's hands; forcing another, naked detainee to masturbate while soldiers photographed him; jumping and stomping on a pile of seven detainees accused of rioting; and punching a detainee in the chest so hard he needed medical attention.
"I knew it was wrong at the time because I knew it was a form of abuse," Frederick, a former Virginia state correctional officer, said at his court-martial. He testified then, and again at Jordan's trial in August, that at least some of the abuse, such as threatening the man with electrocution, stripping male prisoners and covering their heads with women's underwear, was directed by military and civilian interrogators.
Frederick pleaded guilty to conspiracy, dereliction of duty, maltreatment of detainees, assault and committing an indecent act. Prosecutors dropped several other charges in a plea deal.