A military judge ruled Jan. 11 that the trials for two Navy SEALs accused in the assault of an Iraqi prisoner will be held on a US military base in Iraq in order for the alleged victim to be questioned in court. Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Keefe and Petty Officer 1st Class Julio Huertas are accused of assisting in a cover-up of the alleged assault of Ahmed Hashim Abed after his capture in September. A third SEAL, Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew McCabe, is accused of assaulting Abed after his capture as well as assisting in the cover-up of the assault. Abed is suspected of organizing the 2004 ambush and killing of four US contractors in Fallujah. A hearing has tentatively been scheduled for Jan. 13 to determine if McCabe’s trial should also be moved to Iraq. Keene and Huertas will face trial in April, while a trial date has not yet been set for McCabe. All three men have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Detainee abuse continues to be a major issue in the occupation of Iraq. In September 2008, the UK Defense Ministry admitted that soldiers unlawfully abused detainees. In August of that year, six US sailors were charged with allegedly abusing detainees at the Camp Bucca prison facility in southern Iraq. (Jurist, Jan. 12)