NORFOLK, Va. - Lawmakers are rallying around three Navy SEALs accused ofmistreating the suspected terrorist who masterminded the ambush andkilling of four Blackwater contractors protecting a convoy in Iraq.Many lawmakers are asking the Navy to drop its prosecution of theSEALs.
Ahmed Hashim Abed, the alleged terrorist, had been on the runsince the ambush in Fallujah in 2004. The three accused SEALsrecently captured him. Now, SEAL Mathew McCabe, 24, is ontrial for allegedly punching Abed in the stomach one time. FellowSEALs Julio Huertas Jr., 28, and Jonathan Keefe, 25 are chargedwith lying to investigators.
Many legislators on Capitol Hill have signed a bipartisan letterto Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that says the SEALs "captureda terrorist who had planned an attack that not only killedAmericans but also maimed and mutilated their bodies." Theletter goes on to say, "There was no allegation of torture orsustained abuse" and these charges are an "overreaction by thecommand." The lawmakers say the prosecution of the SEALs"will have a negative impact on others in the military who risktheir lives in dangerous, often ambiguous situations."
Congressman Glenn Nye of Virginia Beach, a member of the HouseArmed Services committee, signed the letter and told WAVY.com, "Thethree Navy SEALs should not face a court martial."
Congressman Rob Wittman agrees. "They could have shot andkilled this terrorist, but they practiced restraint, they followedstrictly the rules of engagement knowing that this was a high-valueterrorist. And their restraint in how they dealth with this andtheir maturity in how they dealt with this speaks volumes. I thinkthey did things exactly by the book," said Wittman.
At Monday's support rally for the SEALs, Scott Taylor, a formerSEAL and 2nd district congressional candidate, called the chargesan atrocity. "This is a terrorist who planned, killed,mutilated and hung burned bodies from a bridge in Fallujah, whichcaused an invasion into Fallujah, which gave us more Americancasualties and this guy has a bloody lip. He's lucky he's notdead," said Taylor.
Congressman Randy Forbes is also standing up for theSEALs. "I am concerned about what many see as a growing trendfor government to focus its resources on punishing thoseindividuals who defend and protect us from terrorists who aredeliberately seeking to kill innocent Americans, while at the sametime extending more and more protections for terrorists. Thisis a trend that must be reversed," said Congressman Forbes in awritten statement to WAVY.com.
Senator Jim Webb's Press Secretary, Kimberly Hunter, toldWAVY.com, "We are aware of and continue to monitor the matter but,at this point, it would not be appropriate for Senator Webb tointervene until the investigation and judicial proceedings arecomplete."
McCabe and Huertas are set to stand trial in January in militarycourt at Naval Station Norfolk. Keefe has yet to be arraigned.
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