Trump congratulates US Navy Seal cleared of battlefield murder
US President Donald Trump congratulated a US Navy Seal platoon leader yesterday for being acquitted of murdering a captured Isil fighter, adding he was "glad he could help" in the case.
The Twitter message came a day after a military jury found special operations chief Eddie Gallagher (39) not guilty of murder, including allegations he fatally stabbed the badly wounded Iraqi captive in the neck and shot at unarmed civilians from a sniper's perch.
The seven-member jury did convict him of unlawfully posing for pictures with the Isil fighter's dead body and was set to decide what, if any, sentence he would face for that charge yesterday.
"Congratulations to Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher, his wonderful wife Andrea, and his entire family. You have been through much together. Glad I could help!" Mr Trump wrote on Twitter.
Mr Trump intervened in Mr Gallagher's case months ago, ordering him moved from pretrial detention in a military brig to less restrictive confinement at a navy base in recognition of the decorated veteran's "past service to our country".
"I want to say thank you to Congressman Duncan Hunter and Congressman Ralph Norman and also to President Trump for intervening when he did," Mr Gallagher said.
Mr Hunter is from California and Mr Norman is from South Carolina.
The single offence of posing for unofficial pictures with a human casualty, in this case the remains of the Iraqi whom Mr Gallagher was acquitted of killing, carries a maximum sentence of four months' imprisonment.
Navy authorities said the platoon leader gets credit for nearly seven months of time already served in pretrial custody.
But he could receive other punishment, such as a demotion in rank and reduced pay.
He would have faced a possible life prison sentence had he been found guilty of murder or attempted murder.
Following the verdict, the court was reconvened for a brief sentencing hearing, during which two of Mr Gallagher's friends testified on his behalf as character witnesses. The jury also heard from two doctors who specialise in brain injuries.
They said Mr Gallagher suffered repeated concussions during his combat career, putting him at high risk of brain degeneration and visual impairments that will require ongoing medical attention.
Mr Gallagher, who did not testify in his own defence, insisted disgruntled subordinates with no prior battlefield experience fabricated allegations against him over grievances with his leadership style and tactics.