US: Military jury acquits soldier of war crimes in Iraq
Military panel in San Diego acquits war criminal soldier despite a dozen officers' testimony that he killed civilians
In one of the most controversial court cases of the U.S. Army, a panel of Marine officers in San Diego, California has acquitted a chief Navy SEAL accused by military prosecutors of committing war crimes during his 2017 deployment to Iraq.
Nearly a year after Special Warfare Operator Chief Edward Gallagher was charged with murder, attempted murder, and other war crimes in Mosul, Iraq, including stabbing to death a wounded Daesh prisoner of war, late Tuesday he was found guilty on a single charge -- appearing in an inappropriate photo -- and released from custody.
The jurors ignored the testimony of a dozen of officers in Gallagher's Alpha Platoon, SEAL Team 7, who said he had shot at least two civilians from a sniper perch, among other crimes.
Some of the platoon members who testified against Gallagher were called traitors and threatened with violence in a secret Facebook group, according to the New York Times.
In court, some said they had started carrying weapons to defend themselves against possible attacks.
To sway the the jury of five Marines and two sailors, including a SEAL, Gallagher’s defense team claimed those officers were jealous of 19-year veteran Gallagher on his 8th deployment and disliked his demanding style of command.
The prosecution's remarks that Gallagher’s own text messages and photos incriminated him fell on deaf ears. They included photos of Gallagher holding the dead militant teen up by the hair and clutching a knife in his other hand.
A text message Gallagher sent said “got him with my hunting knife.”
The prosecution asserted the proof of Gallagher’s guilt was in his own words, his own photos and the testimony of his fellow troops.
Gallagher, 40, is expected to receive a Silver Star commendation for battlefield heroism in the days ahead.
U.S. President Donald Trump ordered him released on March 30, citing Gallagher's decorated service to the nation.
“President Trump should be working on getting him his Silver Star now,” said Jeremiah Sullivan, the defense attorney representing Lt. Jacob X. “Jake” Portier, the officer in charge of Gallagher’s SEAL platoon.
Gallagher’s attorneys Timothy Parlatore and Marc Mukasey left the courthouse with big grins on their faces, according to Military Times.
“The jury found him not guilty of the murder, not guilty of the stabbing, not guilty of the shootings, not guilty of all those things,” said Parlatore.
“They did find him guilty of taking a photograph with a dead terrorist, which we admitted from the beginning he was in that photograph,” he said, referring to Gallagher's picture with a war casualty, carrying a maximum sentence of four months, half the time he already served during pretrial.
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