Spc Graner, 36, stood at attention, showing no visible reaction as the verdict was announced. The jury of 10 enlisted soldiers and officers found him guilty of conspiracy, dereliction of duty, maltreatment, aggravated assault and indecent acts.

The charges refer among others to incidents in which Spc Graner beat prisoners, forced them to masturbate and piled them naked on top of each other.

The jury did find him innocent of some of the specific incidents he was charged with.

The soldier faces a prison term of up to 15 years, discharge from the army and forfeiture of pay.

He did not testify before the verdict was passed but could do so before sentencing, which the jury was expected to deliver by early Saturday.

Both the defense and the prosecution announced they would call several witnesses before sentence is passed.

“He was the instigator for what happened at Abu Ghraib,” said Captain Chris Graveline in the government’s closing arguments at the court martial.

“What we have here is plain abuse… there is no justification, it’s for sport, it’s for laughs,” he told the court at the Fort Hood US army base in Texas.

He pointed to the notorious photographs of a smiling Spc Graner and other military policeman standing by naked detainees in sexually humiliating positions at the US-run prison.

“It’s all about their own sexual, depraved humor,” the prosecutor said.

He rejected suggestions Spc Graner and other alleged co-conspirators were ordered by anyone to conduct the abuses, and that information obtained as a result of harsh treatment of detainees may have helped US troops capture Iraq’s former leader, Saddam Hussein.

The civilian lawyer for Spc. Graner, Guy Womack, insisted there was nothing wrong with the way the prisoners were treated and argued that the fact the MPs took photographs showed they were not trying to hide anything.

“It’s not a cover-up, it’s how Abu Ghraib works,” Mr Womack said, insisting Graner’s superiors and the government were well aware of what was going on a the prison.

He said that one incident in which prisoners were made to masturbate and simulate oral sex showed that interrogators knew how to exploit cultural differences to obtain crucial information.

He also said that piling naked detainees in a “cheerleader pyramid” was “an ingenious move” to control the prisoners.

Mr Womack also defended the use of a leash Spc Graner put around a detainee’s neck, saying it was a safe method to drag a potentially dangerous prisoner from his cell. He pointed to a photograph of Private Lynndie England, who was then Spc Graner’s girlfriend, holding the leash.

“She’s barely holding the tether, like she would the smallest of small dogs,” said Mr Womack, a former US marine.

The real crime, the defence lawyer said, is that the pictures of the alleged abuses “were leaked… and embarrassed the US government.”

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