17:43, May 18 68 0 theguardian.com

2019-05-18 17:43:05
Trump may pardon US soldiers accused or convicted of war crimes – report

Donald Trump has asked for files to be prepared on pardoning several US military members accused of or convicted of war crimes, including one slated to stand trial on charges of shooting unarmed civilians while in Iraq, the New York Times reported.

Trump has frequently expressed interest in such cases, which have become causes célèbre among Republicans and rightwing media including Fox News.

Earlier this month he pardoned Matthew Behenna, a former US soldier who was convicted in 2009 of killing an Iraqi prisoner.

According to the Times, which cited two unnamed US officials, Trump requested the immediate preparation of paperwork needed, indicating he is considering pardons for the men around Memorial Day on 27 May.

Assembling pardon files normally takes months but the justice department has pressed for the work to be completed before the holiday weekend, one of the officials said.

One request is for Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher of the Navy Seals, who is scheduled to stand trial in coming weeks on charges of shooting unarmed civilians and killing an enemy captive with a knife while deployed in Iraq.

Also believed to be included is Major Mathew Golsteyn, an Army Green Beret accused of killing an unarmed Afghan in 2010, the Times said.

Reuters could not immediately identify a way to contact Gallagher and Golsteyn.

The newspaper reported that the cases of other men are believed to be included in the paperwork, without naming them.

The White House and the Department of Justice did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the report.

Legal experts cited in the report said pardoning several accused and convicted war criminals, including some who have not yet gone to trial, has not been done in recent history. Some worried such pardons could erode the legitimacy of military law.

Trump’s use of the pardon power has proved controversial. He has also pardoned political allies, among them the hardline former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio. This week Trump pardoned Conrad Black, a former rightwing media baron and convicted fraudster who wrote an admiring biography of the president.

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