NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - A Navy SEAL pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges related to thealleged mistreatment of an Iraqi suspect in the 2004mutilation-slayings of four U.S. contractors.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan E. Keefe is one of three SEALsaccused in the alleged incident, which also includes an assaultcharge against one of the special operations forces sailors.
Keefe, of Yorktown, entered his plea to charges of derelictionof duty and making a false official statement. He was arraignedbefore a military judge at Naval Station Norfolk.
An April 6 court-martial was tentatively scheduled.
The two other SEALs were arraigned earlier this month.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew McCabe is accused of strikingthe detainee in the midsection, dereliction of duty for failing tosafeguard the detainee, and lying to investigators. He deferredentering a plea until his Jan. 19 trial.
Petty Officer 1st Class Julio Huertas of Blue Island, Ill.,pleaded not guilty plea to charges of dereliction of duty, lying toinvestigators and impeding an investigation. His trial was set forJan. 11.
The charges against the three involve Ahmed Hashim Abed, who hasbeen linked to the 2004 deaths of four Blackwater contractors whowere mutilated before their bodies were hung from a bridge. McCabeis accused of punching Abed in the face after his September arrest,while the others are accused of falsifying statements on theepisode.
The charges against the SEALs have sparked anger in somequarters, though the dozens of supporters who were outside the hugeNavy base during the previous arraignments were absent Tuesdayduring Keefe's appearance.
Military officials have cautioned against prejudging thecharges, saying a true picture will emerge when all the evidence isheard.
Members of Congress have also sent letters supporting the threemen to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Army officials.
If they are convicted at trial, they could get up to a year injail, a bad conduct discharge, or a loss of rank or pay.
The SEALs, based at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek inNorfolk, are not in custody.
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