The first of three Navy SEALs to face a courts martial, Petty Officer 1st Class Julio Huertas, was cleared of all charges by a military jury early Thursday. The court martial began Wednesday for two of the three Navy SEALs accused of mistreating Abed, mastermind of the murder and mutilation of four Blackwater security guards in Fallujah in 2004.
“It’s a big weight off my shoulders,” Huertas told NBCChicago.com as he left the courtroom. Hertas said he plans to continue his military career and is going home to “kiss my wife.”
Defense lawyers in the Baghdad court martial of two Navy SEALS accused of mistreating Ahmed Hashim Abed presented evidence calling into question whether the Iraqi suffered any injuries, according to news reports from the trial.
Military medics who examined Abed after the encounter testified that it did not look as if he had been beaten. And defense lawyers showed jurors photos of Abed after the time he said he was beaten with a visible cut inside his lip, but no obvious signs of bruising or other injuries, according to the Associated Press.
Abed testified earlier that after he was captured from his home early last September, he was placed in a chair with his hands bound behind him and blindfolded. Abed said he was then struck from behind so hard that he fell to his knees, and then was struck again in the stomach, according to AP reports.
“It was very powerful. It was so hard I fell down again on my face because my hands were behind my back,” he said, speaking Arabic through an interpreter, AP reported.
“Once I was down they put their foot in my shoulder; I started saying ‘please, please’ — these were the only words that I knew.”
One witness testified he saw Abed being abused. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Kevin DeMartino testified that he saw Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew McCabe punch the prisoner, and that Keefe and Huertas were in the holding room, CNN reported.
But most of the other witnesses failed to corroborate that testimony. Of the 11 witnesses who testified — half of whom are special forces or intelligence officers — only one said he saw evidence of an assault, AP reported.
As HUMAN EVENTS has reported, terrorists are trained to fake injury when in captivity. Chapter 18 of the Al Qaeda training manual, released by the U.S. Justice Department, said that members are directed to complain of torture and mistreatment.
Keefe and faces charges of dereliction of duty by failing to safeguard Abed from abuse. Huertas had also faced a charge that he influenced the testimony of another sailor involved in the capture of Abed.
“I’m confident that these men are innocent,” Scott Taylor, a former Navy SEAL and Republican congressional candidate in Virginia’s 2nd District, said on “Fox and Friends.” “It sends a horrible message to our troops as well as our enemies that all they have to do is accuse folks of beating them and you’ll have three of our top warriors taken off the battle field.”
“SEALs are highly trained professional warriors, and they operate in very ambiguous situations and again you can’t have politics infused there at the battlefield level,” said Taylor.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew McCabe is the only SEAL charged with assault in the case. McCabe will testify on behalf of Keefe and Huertas in the Baghdad court martial. McCabe’s trail is May 3rd in Norfolk, Va.
Visit www.supporttheseals.org for more information.
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