Dozens of U.S. lawmakers sign letter demanding release of Marine officer imprisoned for speaking out

At least 36 members of Congress have signed onto a letter demanding the release of a Marine officer sent to the brig after he continued to carp at senior military leaders in the wake of the deadly, chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in late August.

Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, 40, was detained at Camp Lejeune earlier this week and imprisoned after defying orders to stop criticizing senior military leaders and the Pentagon publicly. Scheller first made headlines in late August when the 17-year combat vet and then-battalion commander posted a video critical of the evacuation following the deaths of 11 Marines, two U.S. Army troops, and a Navy corpsman in a suicide bombing.

Scheller continued to speak out against senior Pentagon leadership in the weeks the followed, leading to his arrest on Monday.

He was slated to appear before a military court at the North Carolina Marine base, though the public, including the media and elected officials, were been barred from attending, the Daily Mail reported. However, the outlet said, the hearing has since been postponed until next week. A source said that the Marine Corps and Scheller’s defense team agreed to the delay as they attempt to work out a mutually acceptable resolution. Scheller is seeking an honorable discharge, according to the outlet, which also reported that a source close to the Marine officer’s defense team insists his alleged offenses do not rise to the level of a dishonorable discharge.

The letter, which was reportedly initiated by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), was signed by at least three dozen other lawmakers who believe that Scheller’s arrest “appears to be for messaging, retribution, and convenience.”

Others who reportedly signed on include Reps. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) Bill Posey (R-Fla.), Buddy Carter (R-Ga.), and Bob Good (R-Va.), the Daily Mail reported.

In the letter, addressed to Marine Corps. Commandant Gen. David H. Berger, the lawmakers reminded him that Scheller’s commander is required by law to justify his imprisonment within 72 hours.

“Given his excellent record and more than 15 years of dedicated service, we do not believe and have seen no evidence that LTC Sheller poses a grave risk of criminal misconduct,” wrote Gohmert. “For the aforementioned reasons we request that LTC Scheller be released from pretrial confinement and be housed in the least restrictive form of housing.”

Army vet and executive director of the non-partisan Justice Warriors Caucus told the Daily Mail his group believes “that the military is trying to do this behind closed doors without proper oversight.”

“There’s nothing that prohibits people from being admitted to this court procedure,” he said. “The fact that they’re trying to do this behind closed doors should be concerning to every American.”

A Marine spokesman told the outlet that private hearings are “standard for Initial Review Hearings.”

Following the Aug. 26 attack on U.S. forces outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Scheller posted a video to social media challenging senior Pentagon leaders to take responsibility.

“The baby boomer’s turn is over. I demand accountability, at all levels. If we don’t get it, I’m bringing it,” he said.

“The reason people are so upset on social media right now is not because the Marine on the battlefield let someone down. That service member has always rose to the occasion and done extraordinary things,” he continued.

“People are upset because their senior leaders let them down, and none of them are raising their hands and accepting accountability and saying, ‘We messed this up,’” he added.

Scheller was dismissed from his command — “relieved for cause” — after posting the video.

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