SEAL Jonathan Keefe Not Guilty
US Navy SEAL Jonathan Keefe found not guilty. Keefe, a 2nd Class Petty Officer (E-5)is the second of three U.S. Navy SEALs to face court-martial for allegedly abusing an Iraqi detainee. He was found not guilty today by a military judge in Baghdad.
The judge deliberated for less than two hours before returning the not-guilty verdict, one day after a panel of members (jury) acquitted Petty Officer 1st Class Julio Huertas on similar charges.
Keefe's court-martial was conducted at Camp Victory, on the western edge of Baghdad, after the U.S. government refused to bring the alleged victim, Ahmed Hashim Abed, who is in Iraqi custody, to the U.S. to testify.
The three SEALs were accused of mistreating a high-value terrorist target following his capture last year. Ahmed Hashim Abed was suspected of being the mastermind behind the grisly torture and killing of four Blackwater employees in Fallujah in 2004, two of whom were former SEALs. The four were escorting a shipment of food through the troubled streets. The incident sparked international outrage after photographs were published showing two of the mens' bodies hanging from the trusses of a bridge, after having been burned and dragged through the streets behind a vehicle.
Fox News reported that the alleged victim, Abed, testified in Keefe's court-martial, as he had in Huertas' court-martial earlier this week. There were discrepancies between today's testimony and his earlier testimony. Abed has changed his story several times, once claiming he was punched in the stomach, and later claiming he was kicked in the stomach. Photographs of Abed taken after the allegations of abuse surfaced showed no notable injuries other than a cut on the inside of his lip, which may have been self-inflicted.
Keefe, Huertas and Petty Officer 2nd Class
Matthew McCabe all participated in the pre-dawn mission that captured Abed last year without a single shot being fired. If they had wanted to rough him up, they certainly had the opportunity when he was captured. Why would they wait until he was in custody?
Petty Officer McCabe's court-martial is scheduled for May 3 in Norfolk, Virginia. McCabe's attorneys did not ask for his trial to be moved to Baghdad, saying they have no need to question Abed. They are now calling upon Major General Cleveland to dismiss the charges against their client rather than waste more taxpayer money on a third trial.
That is unlikely, however, because Matthew McCabe is the only one of the three SEALs accused of actually striking Abed. Huertas ans Keefe were charged with dereliction of duty for not protecting the detainee against the alleged attack.
The charges against the three SEALs were referred to Special Courts-Martial after they refused Captain's Mast, a nonjudicial punishment proceeding in which their guilt or innocence, and their sentence, would be determined by a senior officer, usually their Commanding Officer. Once the men exercised their right to demand trial by court-martial, the government had to either institute court-martial proceedings or drop the charges altogether. There has been outstanding support for these SEALs, with a number of members of Congress unsuccessfully urging the military to drop the charges.
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