NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - A witness in the court-martial of a Navy SEAL testifiedWednesday he saw the defendant punch a suspected Iraqiterrorist.
"It was a right-cross. He punched him in the stomach," PettyOfficer 3rd Class Kevin DeMartino said at the trial of PettyOfficer 2nd Class Matthew McCabe of Perrysburg, Ohio. The detainee"let out a gasp of air" and fell to the floor, DeMartino said.
McCabe, 24, is accused of punching Ahmed Hashim Abed, who issuspected of masterminding the gruesome 2004 killings of fourAmerican contractors in Fallujah. The bodies were burned, draggedthrough the streets and strung up on a bridge. The incident inciteda fierce, weeks-long battle.
DeMartino, who was responsible for guarding Abed, acknowledgedthat he failed to do his job properly. He also admitted that heinitially denied any knowledge of what happened, but said hisconscience finally overcame his desire to protect his friends.
"I had to either be in the good graces of the Navy SEALs or inthe good graces of God," he said.
He also said he saw several SEALs other than McCabe enter thesmall building where Abed was being held. He said he believedothers participated in the assault.
"Man to man, I'll tell you they went in there and did it,"DeMartino said, but he added that McCabe's punch was the only onehe saw.
DeMartino and the SEAL commander who led the operation tocapture Abed both said there was no reason for SEALs to be in theholding area with the detainee. But a SEAL who testified for thedefense said that it's not prohibited and that he stopped by justto get a look at a high-profile detainee.
The defense attacked DeMartino's credibility in questioningseveral witnesses, including some SEALs and intelligence officerswho cannot be publicly identified, who contradicted portions ofDeMartino's testimony.
Most of those conflicts centered on conversations DeMartinoclaimed he had with the witnesses, who disputed his accounts. Amedic also denied DeMartino's claim that he wiped blood off Abed'schin. The medic, who conducted the medical screening of Abedshortly after his capture, testified that he saw no blood and noother signs of trauma.
Navy Reserve member Paul Franco of New York, who supervisedDeMartino, said he had "reservations about his truthfulness." Hesaid DeMartino would often say he had completed a task when he hadnot.
Some of the witnesses were given testimonial immunity, but oneof them noted that he could still be prosecuted for lying underoath -- something he said he would never do, even to protect afellow SEAL.
In the audio recording heard earlier this week, Abed denied anyinvolvement in the killings and any connection with terroristorganizations. He did not identify McCabe as the assailant, sayinghe only caught a glimpse of a man's bare legs when he fell to thefloor and his blindfold was partially dislodged.
Two other SEALs who were accused of covering up the assault wereacquitted last month in Iraq after a judge heard much of the sameevidence and testimony being presented in McCabe's trial. DeMartinoadmitted to McCabe's attorney, Neal Puckett, that he was nervous onthe stand Wednesday.
"Is that because you've testified twice before and haven't beenbelieved?" Puckett said.
McCabe is charged with assault, dereliction of duty and lying toinvestigators. He could get up to a year in jail if convicted.
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