A US Navy Special Operations Chief is accused of breaking international law by indiscriminating killing Iraqi civilians and nearly a dozen other crimes, including stabbing to death a 15-year-old prisoner.
Edward Gallagher has pleaded not guilty when appearing at a hearing in San Diego’s naval base on Friday, with his official trial set to begin on February 19.
Gallagher served the Navy for 19 years and faces life imprisonment if found guilty. The prosecution alleges that Gallagher committed several crimes while in Mosul from February to September 2017, including stabbing to death a teenage prisoner who was fighting for the Islamic State (IS).
The teenager was originally wounded during an airstrike in September 2017 and had his wounds treated by medics from the Seal platoon. Gallagher is reported to have attacked him with a homemade knife and then had others take photos whilst he posed with the corpse and recited the Navy re-enlistment ceremony oath. His lawyer denies this, claiming that the teenager died from injuries sustained during the airstrike and that Gallagher is being tarred by disgruntled platoon members demanding a new leader.
Joe Warpinski, a special agent for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, told reporters that Gallagher was known to fire indiscriminately at crowds of Iraqi civilians. He was known to have killed an old man and a girl from his sniper's outpost. Prosecutors noted that the men under his command tampered with his rifle so as to make it less accurate and ensured they would also fire warning shots to clear civilians from the area.
Gallagher has also been accused of contacting witnesses and has been held in pre-trial confinement ahead of his hearing. His wife Andrea Gallagher has called upon President Trump to intervene and has been protesting his arrest outside the courthouse on Friday.
See more from the BBC here.