NORFOLK, Va. - A jury was selected, opening statements heard, and testimony inthe court-martial of a Navy SEAL accused of punching a suspectedterrorist in Iraq.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew McCabe pleaded not guiltyTuesday in military court at Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia. Ajury of four Navy officers and three enlisted personnel was seatedTuesday morning.
The 24-year-old Virginia Beach-based SEAL from Perrysburg, Ohio,is accused of assaulting Ahmed Hashim Abed, who is suspected ofmasterminding the gruesome 2004 killings of four Americancontractors in Fallujah. Two other SEALs who were accused ofcovering up the assault were acquitted last month in Iraq and areexpected to testify in McCabe's trial.
In opening statements, government prosecutors told members ofthe jury "a story you don't want to believe becomes a story youhave to believe."
Defense attorneys asked the jury to consider importantquestions, including when blood was first discovered on thedetainee, what will a medical screen reveal, and why would nineU.S. Naval officers and petty officers lie under oath. Theyalso told the jury that the evidence will suggest Abedintentionally bit into a canker sore on his lip to cause bleedingthat he could claim was inflicted by an American captor. McCabe's attorneys said a terrorist training manual teaches thattactic.
As testimony began, a Special Forces commander testified that heprepared a document that McCabe should have seen outlining legal,moral, and ethical behavior expected during the operation.
Then the nearly three-hour taped, translated deposition of Abedwas played in court. In it, he says that following hisarrest, he was blindfolded, handcuffed, taken into a room, placedin a chair, and abused for approximately five minutes. Abedsaid he was punched in the stomach, kicked, and thrown to theground.
Abed did not identify McCabe as the assailant, saying he onlycaught a glimpse of a man's bare legs when he fell to the floor andhis blindfold was partially dislodged.
During the deposition playback, McCabe's attorneys kept arunning list on a board of what they claim were inconsistencies inAbed's testimony.
The trial continues Wednesday morning.
A Navy petty officer who claims McCabe was the attacker isexpected to testify. Petty Officer 3rd Class Kevin DeMartio alsotestified at the trials of McCabe's co-defendants, but his accountwas contradicted by a several other witnesses.
McCabe is charged with assault, dereliction of duty and lyingto investigators. He could get up to a year in jail ifconvicted.
Relatives of McCabe and of some of the Blackwater contractorswho were killed in Fallujah are attending the trial, which isexpected to last most of the week.
The SEALs have received an outpouring of support from peopleon the Internet, as well as more than 20 members of Congress whosigned a letter urging Defense Secretary Robert Gates to put a stopto the prosecution.
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