A U.S. military jury cleared a Navy SEAL Thursday of failing to prevent the beating of an Iraqi prisoner suspected of masterminding a 2004 attack that killed four American security contractors.
The 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 what became a turning point in the Iraq war.
The trial of three SEALs, the Navy’s elite special forces unit, in the abuse case has outraged many Americans who see it as coddling terrorists.
A six-man jury found Petty Officer 1st Class Julio Huertas, 29, of Blue Island, Illinois, not guilty of charges of dereliction of duty and attempting to influence the testimony of another service member. The jury spent two hours deliberating the verdict.
“It’s a big weight off my shoulders,” a smiling and composed Huertas said as he left the courthouse at the U.S. military’s Camp Victory on Baghdad’s western outskirts.