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LOS ANGELES: Stabbing a teenage prisoner to death, picking off a young girl and an old man with a sniper rifle and firing a heavy machine gun into a residential area: these are some of the charges facing an elite US Navy SEAL on trial for war crimes while deployed in Iraq.
Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, a decorated 39-year-old veteran of combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, is still a hero in the eyes of many Americans and the rightwing Fox News channel — and his case may even become a factor in next year’s presidential elections.
Around 40 Republican members of Congress have written an open letter demanding Gallagher — who denies the charges against him — be set free until he stands trial. One has even called on President Donald Trump to step in and have the case dismissed.
Trump has weighed in on the case on Twitter, saying that he had intervened to ensure that Gallagher — who was nominated for the Silver Star for his service — “will soon be moved to less restrictive confinement while he awaits his day in court.”
Trump said the move was made “in honor of his past service to our Country.”
Gallagher, a platoon commander of SEAL Team 7, will face a military tribunal at a Navy base in San Diego on May 28. He was arrested last September and has been held at the base ever since.
Reported by his own men
He was arrested after men under his command in the elite Navy unit were so horrified by his actions that they complained to their superiors, but were warned that their accusations could damage their careers, according to reports in The Navy Times and The New York Times this week.
Gallagher now faces charges of premeditated murder, attempted murder and obstruction of justice. He could be sentenced to life in prison if found guilty.
The crimes he stands accused of were committed in 2017 during a deployment in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. US special forces were fighting alongside Iraqi troops to take back parts of the town from Daesh group fighters.
His lawyer did not respond to an AFP request for comment.