A Virginia military jury on Thursday acquitted US Navy SEAL [official website] Matthew McCabe on charges of assaulting a high-profile Iraqi detainee. Petty Officer 2nd Class McCabe was accused of punching Ahmed Hashim Abed, implicated in the killing of four American contractors in Fallujah [JURIST new archive] in 2004. McCabe was charged with assault, dereliction of duty, and lying to investigators, and he could have faced up to a year in prison if convicted. The prosecution's key witness testified [AP report] that he saw McCabe punch Abed, but the testimony was contradicted by several defense witnesses. The jury deliberated for an hour and 40 minutes before returning a verdict of not guilty.
Last month, two other SEALs were acquitted in connection with the alleged assault. Unlike McCabe, Petty Officer 1st Class Julio Huertas and Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Keefe were tried in Iraq so that they could confront their accuser. Detainee abuse has been a major issue during the Iraq war, and the case against the three Navy SEALS has been seen by some critics as an attempt to compensate for other abuses like those at Abu Ghraib [JURIST news archive].