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By Miriam Raftery

Photos: Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher

January 9, 2019 (San Diego) – Congressman Duncan Hunter has sent a letter asking President Donald Trump to remove a Navy SEAL charged with war crimes in Iraq from the brig at Miramar Naval Air Station where he is being held pending trial.  His arraignment is slated for Friday.

Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher is accused of first degree murder for allegedly stabbing to death a teenage ISIS fighter detained in Mosul, Iraq in May 2017, while a medic was trying to save the prisoner’s life. According to prosecutors, he stabbed the teen in the head and neck, then sent a text message to a friend with a photo stating “I got him with my hunting knife.” He is also accused of shooting at Iraqi civilians on multiple occasions, including a man carrying a water jug and a girl walking by a riverbank, NPR reports.

Gallagher has served in the Navy for 19 years and was awarded numerous honors including two Bronze Stars and a Navy/marine Corps Commendation Medal. Gallagher maintains he is innocent.

Hunter contends in his letter that the brig at Miramar is “not an appropriate venue for an American war hero,” noting that Gallagher has not been convicted of a crime to date, yet is being held with convicted sex offenders.

The Republican Congressman from the 50th Congressional district also contends that Gallagher’s family has been forced to follow humiliating procedures during visits. “Reportedly his children are required to wear `hospital gowns’ while they visit, so that they may not `bring unwanted attention from’ any of the other inmates,” Hunter states. He further argues that Chief Gallagher’s confinement is adversely affecting full access to legal representation.

Hunter has also asked President Trump to review Gallagher’s case personally because of what Hunter characterizes as “over-aggressiveness of the Navy JAG corp showing its bias against our warfighters.”

Gallagher has hired prominent criminal defense attorneys  including Phillip Stackhouse of San Diego. Due to a gag order placed on the case, attorneys are limited in what they can discuss, however Stackhouse has said that he has been unable to review videos seized as evidence with his client.  He has also stated that Gallagher suffered multiple head injuries in combat, Navy Times has reported.

Gallagher’s platoon leader, Lt. Jacob Porter, has also been arrested for allegedly helping Gallagher try to cover up war crimes, 10 News reports.  According to the Navy Times, an ongoing war crimes investigation includes over a dozen SEALS. A key question in Gallagher’s case is whether the teen, believed to be 15 years old, died of injuries sustained earlier in an air strike or from injuries allegedly inflicted by Gallagher.

United American Patriots, an organization that advocates for soldiers accused of war crimes, is helping to fund Gallagher’s defense, along with the Navy SEALS Fund.  

There is no bail under the military justice system. Chief Gallagher has been behind bars since September, when he was taken from his family’s home in Florida while his two young sons were present.  

Commander Tamara Lawrence, in a statement to the Navy Times, said of the case, “Naval Special Warfare strives to maintain the highest level of readiness, effectiveness, discipline, efficiency, integrity, and public confidence. All suspected violations for which there is credible information are thoroughly investigated.”