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A judge on the U.S. military's highest court asked Monday whether a "Catch-22" prevented the alleged ringleader of detainee abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq from getting a fair trial in 2005.

Judge James E. Baker raised the question during oral arguments on Army Pvt. Charles A. Graner's request that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces set aside his conviction and order a new trial.

Graner, 41, of Uniontown, Pa., didn't attend the 45-minute hearing before the five-judge court. The former military police corporal is serving a 10-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., for offenses in the fall of 2003 that included stacking naked prisoners into a pyramid, knocking one of them out with a punch to the head and ordering prisoners to masturbate while soldiers took pictures.

Graner maintains the actions were part of a plan directed by military intelligence officers to soften up prisoners for interrogation.

He contends a military judge wrongly refused during a pretrial hearing to order the government to hand over then-classified documents that would show that some of the harsh treatment of detainees reflected "enhanced interrogation techniques" approved by then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The government maintains that since those documents were released a day after the pretrial hearing, the defense had access to them before the trial, and so there was no error.

Baker focused on the defense's difficulty in seeking a Department of Defense memo that, because of its classified status, could not be requested by date or author — a situation Baker called a Catch-22.


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