Sgt. Javal S. Davis — one of four former Abu Ghraib prison soldiers who are scheduled to be court-martialed next week — said any physical actions he took with Iraqi detainees were at the direct instructions of the interrogation officers at the Baghdad prison.
Davis told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America that every action he took was in response to instructions he received from intelligence officers at Baghdad's notorious Abu Ghraib prison. The soldier said intelligence officers who were preparing to interrogate prisoners gave instructions to "rough them up" before questioning.
Davis said that it has always been his understanding that his actions were within the limits of what is acceptable in dealing with detainees.
"Basically, when the intelligence personnel, when they bring them down there, anyone that comes in there with intelligence value, they want to interrogate them and they would ask you to loosen them up," Davis said on Good Morning America during a phone interview from Baghdad. "Basically, just rough them up a little bit, get them scared. Don't hurt them or anything like that, which I didn't do. No one was injured from what I did," he said.
Davis will be arraigned May 20 on charges stemming from the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse allegations. Staff Sgt. Ivan "Chip" Frederick II and Cpl. Charles A. Graner will also be arraigned that day on charges related to the abuse scandal.
Davis has been charged with conspiracy to maltreat detainees; dereliction of duty for failing to protect detainees from abuse; maltreatment of detainees; and rendering false official statements and assault.
The 26-year-old soldier, who is originally from Roselle, N.J., said he was doing his job and simply following orders.
According to the charge sheet, Davis told Army investigators he was "made to do various things that I would question morally."
"Yes, I could have said no to anything. But that would have been disobeying an order," Davis said on Good Morning America. "So either you can get in trouble for not doing what you're told or get in trouble for doing what you're told. So it's kind of like a Catch-22. But it's my choice to make a decision what I consider would be the right thing to do or not." Davis — who has been accused of jumping on a pile of prisoners by prison guard Spc. Jeremy Sivits, the first soldier scheduled to be court-martialed in the abuse scandal — said he followed the intelligence officers' lead when he was asked to prepare prisoners for questioning.
"You pretty much do what they do and that's what the instructions were — rough them up but don't hurt anybody," Davis said.
Paul Bergrin, a Newark, N.J., lawyer who is representing Davis, said Sivits' statements about Davis have been self-serving.
Bergrin said he believes his client will be vindicated of all of the charges against him.
Davis, a power tool salesman in civilian life, said it's not easy to offer the names of those officers who gave instructions because they were not always clearly identified.
"As far as their names, it's hard to tell their names, because most intelligence personnel don't wear name tags or they'll have their shirts off and they wouldn't tell you their name. They just say 'call me agent' or 'mister' or a fake name or something like that," Davis said.
The soldier's mother and father, Michelle and Jonathan Davis, joined Good Morning America to listen and respond to their son's phone interview.
Davis thanked him for their support and asked for understanding.
"I would like to tell my family that, you know, I'm hanging in there. I hope that everything, the truth gets out and that the American people does not condemn me," he said.
As further claim of his innocence, Davis said he is not in any of the photographs or videotapes which have surfaced of the alleged abuse incidents.
"I was a little upset because all those pictures that are out there have nothing to do with me," he said. "I don't want to have myself being included in those pictures, because you won't see me in any photographs. I didn't take any photographs. I'm not in any of those."
The soldier's parents told him they would stand by him no matter what.
"You know we love you," said his father, Jonathan Davis. "It's going to be all right, you know? Don't worry about a thing."
Davis, Sivits and Frederick were members of the 320th Military Police Battalion which was stationed at Abu Ghraib, the prison where Saddam Hussein's regime tortured and executed thousands of opponents.