President Trump said Saturday that Edward R. Gallagher, a Navy SEAL charged with war crimes including premeditated murder, will be “moved to less restrictive confinement” while awaiting trial.
Mr. Trump made the announcement on Twitter in a morning tweet amid calls led by Republicans seeking reprieve for Mr. Gallagher as the SEAL prepares for his court-martial from behind bars at a military prison in San Diego.
A chief special warfare operator, Mr. Gallagher is accused of multiple crimes related to his deployment to Iraq in 2017, including counts stemming from allegedly murdering a wounded teenage combatant and then using the corpse as a prop during a staged battlefield reenlistment ceremony.
He was arrested in September 2018 and detained ever since at Naval Consolidated Brig, Miramar. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts, and his court-martial is currently slated to start May 28.
Dozens of lawmakers protested the SEAL’s confinement Thursday on Capitol Hill, and Rep. Ralph Norman, South Carolina Republican, said on Friday that Mr. Trump told he had intervened.
“As I’ve said from the start, I believe Chief Gallagher will soon have a fair and impartial trial,” said Mr. Norman. “But until proven otherwise, it’s appropriate that he be treated as a decorated soldier who still has the presumption of innocence.”
In a letter sent earlier in the week to Navy Rear Admiral Yancy Lindsey, 40 members of Congress including Mr. Norman asked that the Pentagon reconsider its decision to place the SEAL in pre-trial confinement “and analyze whether a less severe form of restraint would be appropriate as his trial approaches.”
“We ask you weigh this decision, given the terrible message Chief Gallagher’s confinement sends to our warfighters, that they can be confined behind bars away from their family, legal defense and community for nine months before their day in court,” they wrote Thursday. “To confine any service member for that duration of time, regardless the authority to do so, sends a chilling message to those who fight for our freedoms.”
Mr. Trump mentioned Mr. Norman in his tweet Saturday, as well as “Fox and Friends,” the Fox News television program where the Republican publicly pleaded earlier in the week for reprieve.
“In honor of his past service to our Country, Navy Seal #EddieGallagher will soon be moved to less restrictive confinement while he awaits his day in court. Process should move quickly! @foxandfriends @RepRalphNorman,” Mr. Trump tweeted.
The details of the SEAL’s new confinement were not immediately clear. He asked to be released to either his home or a less restrictive prison environment while awaiting trial.
• Andrew Blake can be reached at email@example.com.
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