MONITORING (SW) – U.S. President Donald Trump has issued pardons for two Army officers accused of war crimes in Afghanistan and restored the rank of a Navy SEAL who was acquitted of murder in Iraq.
"For more than two hundred years, presidents have used their authority to offer second chances to deserving individuals, including those in uniform who have served our country," said White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham in a statement released late Friday. "These actions are in keeping with this long history."
The officers include 1st Lt. Clint Lorance who has served six years of a 19-year sentence on two charges of second-degree murder and obstruction of justice after ordering his soldiers to open fire on three unarmed men in Afghanistan, killing two of them. He had been convicted in 2013.
The other pardoned officer is Maj. Matthew Golsteyn, a West Point graduate, who was awaiting trial for allegedly murdering a suspected Afghan bombmaker in 2010. The trial was scheduled for next year.
The president also restored the rank of Special Warfare Operator Chief Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL, who was convicted of posing with a corpse of an enemy combatant in Iraq. Gallagher had been acquitted of murder and other serious charges in July 2019.
Some current and former Pentagon officials say the pardons, while legal, could undermine the military justice system.
Late last month Adm Mike Gilday, the US chief of naval operations, denied a request for clemency for Gallagher and upheld a military jury’s sentence that reduced his rank by one step. One of Gallagher’s lawyers, Timothy Parlatore, said that ruling would cost Gallagher up to $200,000 in retirement funds because of his loss of rank from a chief petty officer to a 1st class petty officer.