A U.S. military judge on Friday cleared a Navy SEAL of any wrongdoing in the alleged beating of an Iraqi prisoner suspected of masterminding the grisly 2004 killings of four American contractors.
The Blackwater contractors’ burned bodies were dragged through the streets and two were hanged from a bridge over the Euphrates river in the former insurgent hotbed of Fallujah in an attack that shocked Americans and galvanized U.S. support for the war.
After a daylong trial and fewer than two hours considering the evidence, Navy Judge Cmdr. Tierny Carlos found Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Keefe of Yorktown, Virginia, not guilty of dereliction of duty, a spokesman said.
It was the second verdict in as many days to throw out charges against a SEAL accused in the abuse case. Three SEALS, the Navy’s elite special forces unit, face charges in a case that has drawn fire from at least 20 members of Congress and other Americans who it see it as coddling terrorists to overcompensate for the notorious Abu Ghraib prison scandal.
The trial against the third and final SEAL to be charged is slated for May 3 in Norfolk, Virginia.