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A military judge has decided to move the trials for two of three Navy SEALs accused in connection with the alleged assault of a suspected terrorist to Iraq.
Cmdr. Tierney Carlos, the trial judge for the courts-martial of Special Warfare Operator 2nd Class (SEAL) Jonathan Elliot Keefe and SO1 (SEAL) Julio Antonio Huertas Jr., agreed Monday with defense motions to move the trials to Camp Victory in Iraq so the sailors can face the alleged victim, Ahmed Hashim Abed, whom the government sought to depose in lieu of a trial appearance. Keefe's court-martial had been scheduled to begin April 6, while Huertas' was supposed to begin Monday.
"If he is available for a deposition, then he is available for trial," Carlos said during the hearing for Keefe Monday.
The U.S. thinks Abed masterminded the 2004 ambush in Fallujah, Iraq, in which four Blackwater security contractors were burned. Two of their bodies were hanged from a bridge.
Keefe, Huertas and SO2 (SEAL) Matthew McCabe are accused of making false statements in an alleged attempt to cover up the assault, as well as dereliction of duty. McCabe is also charged with assault. All three have pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Last month, Navy prosecutors asked a judge to delay the trials of McCabe and Huertas. Documents were submitted Dec. 30 to the trial judge, Capt. Moira Modzelewski, requesting the government continue Huertas' special court-martial, scheduled to begin Monday, and that of McCabe, scheduled for Jan. 19.
Keefe's lawyer, Greg McCormack, had already asked for a continuance at Keefe's Dec. 20 arraignment, which was granted, continuing the court-martial until April 6.
McCormack told reporters after the December hearing that he was aware of photos and video of the alleged victim from during and after the attack, but had yet to see them.
That's because, he said, much of the evidence is still undergoing classification review.
A hearing for McCabe is scheduled for Wednesday.