NORFOLK, Va., Dec. 7 (UPI) — Two U.S. Navy SEALs accused in the abuse of an Iraqi detainee were arraigned in Virginia Monday, with one declining to enter a plea and one pleading not guilty.
While Special Warfare Operator 2nd Class Matthew McCabe, the SEAL charged with assaulting the prisoner, didn’t enter a plea, he told reporters after the proceedings at the Norfolk Naval Station that he and his co-defendants are innocent, Navy Times reported.
“Neither I or any of my teammates did what they are accusing us of,” said McCabe, whose trial was set for Jan. 19. “If I had agreed to non-judicial punishment, I don’t believe I would have gotten a fair trial. I believe that in a trial, when all the evidence is heard, I will be acquitted.”
McCabe also is charged with dereliction of duty and making a false official statement.
Fellow SEAL Julio Antonio Hertas Jr., pleaded not guilty to charges of dereliction of duty, making a false official statement and impeding an investigation. He is to be tried Jan. 11.
A third SEAL, Jonathan Elliot Keefe, had his arraignment continued to an as-yet undetermined date.
Military authorities allege McCabe punched Ahmed Hashim Abed, the alleged mastermind of a 2004 ambush in Fallujah in which four Blackwater security contractors were hanged and burned, at Camp Schweidler, Iraq,
Capt. Moira Modzelewski, the judge who will preside over McCabe’s trial, issued a protective order, limiting what can be discussed publicly about the case.