Donald Trump has demanded medals be revoked from prosecutors in the war crimes trial of a Navy seal who was acquitted of murdering an Iraqi prisoner but convicted of unlawfully posing for photos with his dead body.
Mr Trump's announcement was a remarkable rebuke by a US president of his own Navy leadership.
“The Prosecutors who lost the case against SEAL Eddie Gallagher (who I released from solitary confinement so he could fight his case properly), were ridiculously given a Navy Achievement Medal,” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter.
“Not only did they lose the case, they had difficulty with respect to information that may have been obtained from opposing lawyers and for giving immunity in a totally incompetent fashion.”
He added: “I have directed the Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer & Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson to immediately withdraw and rescind the awards.”
Gallagher’s case had become a cause célèbre among Republican lawmakers and the conservative media. In March, the US president said that he would order that the chief be moved to less restrictive pretrial confinement.
Gallagher was turned in by members of his own platoon, who accused him of stabbing a captured and wounded teenage fighter repeatedly in the neck with a custom hunting knife in 2017. He was also charged with obstruction of justice for threatening to kill his colleagues who reported him.
In a court-martial this month, he was found not guilty of first-degree murder in the death of the captive and was also acquitted of accusations that he had fired at unarmed civilians.
Gallagher was convicted of only a single charge, related to posing for photographs with the body of the teenage captive. He was sentenced to four months’ confinement and a reduction in rank, to special operator first class.
The prosecution was troubled before the verdict. The lead prosecutor was removed from the case after being caught attaching tracking software to email messages sent to defence lawyers. Then another Navy seal who was given immunity surprised prosecutors by testifying that he was the one who had killed the captive.
New York Times
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