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  • U.S. Navy SEAL Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher (R), with wife Andrea Gallagher, leaves court after being acquitted of most of the serious charges against him during his court-martial trial at Naval Base San Diego in San Diego, California , U.S., July 2, 2019.

    U.S. Navy SEAL Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher (R), with wife Andrea Gallagher, leaves court after being acquitted of most of the serious charges against him during his court-martial trial at Naval Base San Diego in San Diego, California , U.S., July 2, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 3 July 2019

Gallagher, accused of a war crime, could have faced life imprisonment but will now only face four months in prison for posing with a corpse.

A U.S. Navy SEAL platoon leader accused of war crimes in Iraq was acquitted by a military jury Tuesday of murder and all other charges except for unlawfully posing with the corpse of a captive fighter from the Islamic State Group. 

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The seven-member jury deliberated for about nine hours before delivering its verdict in the court-martial of Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, 39, a decorated career combat veteran whose case had drawn the interest of U.S. President Donald Trump.

The court said Gallagher was "not guilty of murder, not guilty of stabbing, not guilty of shooting, not guilty of all those things, they found him guilty of taking a photograph," Timothy Parlatore, one of Gallagher's lawyer's informed journalists. 

He could have faced imprisonment for life if found guilty of “premeditated murder” but due to the ruling, he now only faces four month in prison but he is set to walk free as Gallagher had already served nine months in prison during pre-trial confinement. He could face other punishments, such as a demotion in rank and reduced pay.

Several fellow SEAL team members testified he fatally stabbed the captured Iraqi prisoner in the neck with a custom-made knife after the teenage fighter was brought to Gallagher's outpost for medical treatment in 2017.

Some of the same witnesses also said they saw Gallagher, who was originally trained as a medic, perform a number of emergency procedures on the detainee before he died.

Gallagher was also charged with attempted murder in the wounding of two unarmed civilians - a schoolgirl and an elderly man — shot from a sniper's perch, as well as with firing deliberately on other non-combatants and with obstruction of justice.

Trump intervened in Gallagher's case months ago, ordering he be moved from pretrial detention in a military base to confinement at a Navy base.

The presiding judge later released Gallagher from custody altogether, saying the prosecutors had infringed on the Navy SEAL's right to fair proceedings by ordering his detention for nine months. 

In a surprise blow to prosecutors during the first week of the trial, a Navy SEAL medic testified it was he, not Gallagher, who caused the death of the gravely injured prisoner by blocking his breathing tube, calling it a mercy killing.

Two defense witnesses, an Iraqi general and a U.S. Marine staff sergeant, later testified they never saw the Iraqi captive mistreated by anyone during the 20 minutes he spent alive in U.S. custody.

Gallagher, who did not testify in his own defense, told reporters after Tuesday's proceedings, "I'm happy and thankful" and added "Thank God, the legal team and my wife."

Gallagher insisted that disgruntled subordinates with no prior battlefield experience fabricated allegations against him over grievances with his leadership style and tactics.

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