SAN DIEGO: A Navy SEAL platoon leader court-martialled on charges he killed an Islamic State prisoner in Iraq in 2017 was released by a military judge from base confinement in San Diego on Thursday, less than two weeks before he is due to go on trial.
The Navy captain presiding over the case ordered Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher freed from custody at the end of a five-hour pre-trial hearing on several defence motions based on accusations of prosecutorial misconduct.
Gallagher, who pleaded not guilty to all charges, had been restricted to base at the Naval Medical Center San Diego since late March.
The 39-year-old was transferred there from a military brig at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California at the direction of US President Trump, who ordered the defendant moved to less-restrictive confinement while he awaited trial “in honour of his past service to our country.”
Trump has said he was considering pardons for service members accused of war crimes, and media reports have said they include Gallagher.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin June 10 in the court-martial charging Gallagher with killing a helpless, wounded Islamic State fighter in his custody and of shooting two unarmed civilians, a schoolgirl and an elderly man.
Pre-trial proceedings for the past month have focused on contentions by Gallagher’s attorneys that prosecutors and their investigators illegally snooped on the defence and reporters covering the case.