U.S. Navy SEAL acquitted of murder in war crimes trial

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) – A U.S. Navy SEAL platoon leader accused of war crimes in Iraq was acquitted by a military jury on Tuesday of murder and all other charges except for unlawfully posing with the corpse of a captive ISIS fighter.

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

The single offense of posing for unofficial pictures with a human casualty, in this case the remains of the Iraqi whom Gallagher was acquitted of killing, carries a maximum sentence of four months’ imprisonment.

Navy authorities said Gallagher had credit for nearly seven months of time already served in pretrial custody, so he would presumably remain a free man. But he could face other punishment, such as a demotion in rank and reduced pay.

Gallagher could have faced life in prison if found guilty of the most serious charge against him, premeditated murder.

Following the verdict, court was reconvened for a brief sentencing hearing, during which two friends of Gallagher, one of them a Navy special warfare veteran who served with him in combat, testified on his behalf as character witnesses.

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