Updated: Wednesday, 09 Dec 2009, 9:31 PM EST
Published : Wednesday, 09 Dec 2009, 2:02 PM EST
NORFOLK, Va. - Congressman Randy Forbes is the latest lawmaker to join the rally of support for three Navy SEALs accused of mistreating the suspected terrorist who masterminded the ambush and killing of four Blackwater contractors protecting a convoy in Iraq. Many legislators on Capitol Hill are asking the Navy to drop its prosecution of the SEALs.
Ahmed Hashim Abed, the alleged terrorist, had been on the run since the ambush in Fallujah in 2004. The three accused SEALs recently captured him. Now, SEAL Mathew McCabe, 24, is on trial for allegedly punching Abed in the stomach one time. Fellow SEALs Julio Huertas Jr., 28, and Jonathan Keefe, 25 are charged with lying to investigators.
Congressman Forbes told WAVY.com in a written statement, "I am concerned about what many see as a growing trend for government to focus its resources on punishing those individuals who defend and protect us from terrorists who are deliberately seeking to kill innocent Americans, while at the same time extending more and more protections for terrorists. This is a trend that must be reversed."
Dozens of legislators have signed a bipartisan letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that says the SEALs "captured a terrorist who had planned an attack that not only killed Americans but also maimed and mutilated their bodies." The letter goes on to say, "There was no allegation of torture or sustained abuse" and these charges are an "overreaction by the command." The lawmakers say the prosecution of the SEALs "will have a negative impact on others in the military who risk their lives in dangerous, often ambiguous situations."
Congressman Glenn Nye of Virginia Beach, a member of the House Armed Services committee, signed the letter and told WAVY.com, "The three Navy SEALs should not face a court martial."
Congressman Rob Wittman agrees. "They could have shot and killed this terrorist, but they practiced restraint, they followed strictly the rules of engagement knowing that this was a high-value terrorist. And their restraint in how they dealth with this and their maturity in how they dealt with this speaks volumes. I think they did things exactly by the book," said Wittman.
At Monday's support rally for the SEALs, Scott Taylor, a former SEAL and 2nd district congressional candidate, called the charges an atrocity. "This is a terrorist who planned, killed, mutilated and hung burned bodies from a bridge in Fallujah, which caused an invasion into Fallujah, which gave us more American casualties and this guy has a bloody lip. He's lucky he's not dead," said Taylor.
Senator Jim Webb's Press Secretary, Kimberly Hunter, told WAVY.com, "We are aware of and continue to monitor the matter but, at this point, it would not be appropriate for Senator Webb to intervene until the investigation and judicial proceedings are complete."
McCabe and Huertas are set to stand trial in January in military court at Naval Station Norfolk. Keefe has yet to be arraigned.
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