Local Navy SEAL Cleared in Court Martial

First Of Three SEALS To Go On Trial

A U.S. military jury cleared a 29-year-old Navy SEAL of failing to prevent the beating of an Iraqi prisoner. 

Petty Officer Julio Huertas of Blue Island, Illinois was found not guilty of charges of dereliction of duty. 

"It's a big weight off my shoulders," Huertas said with a smile as he left a courtroom at a U.S. Military camp in Baghdad.

He sai he plans to continue with his military career and is going "to go home and kiss my wife."  

Huertas was the first of three SEALS to face a court-martial for charges related to an abuse incident that involved an Iraqi prisoner.

The prisoner is suspected of masterminding a 2004 attack that killed four American security contractors whose burned bodies were dragged through the streets and  hanged from a bridge in Fallujah, Iraq.  The gruesome episode was a turning point in the Iraq war.

The trial stems from an attack on four Blackwater security contractors who were driving through the city of Fallujah in 2004. The images of the bodies hanging from the bridge drove home the rising power of the insurgency and helped spark a bloody U.S. invasion of Fallujah to root out the insurgents later that year.

The charges outraged many Americans who felt that charges the SEALS, the Navy's elite special forces unit was a sign the government did not support its troops and was going soft on terrorists.  Huetras is the first of three SEALS to go on trial.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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