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7 May, 2019 17:21

‘War criminal’: Outrage as Trump pardons former US soldier who killed Iraqi prisoner

‘War criminal’: Outrage as Trump pardons former US soldier who killed Iraqi prisoner

US President Donald Trump is facing heavy criticism for pardoning a former US soldier, once sentenced to 25 years in prison for murdering an Iraqi prisoner in 2009.

The White House announced on Monday that Trump signed an executive grant of clemency, a full pardon, for Michael Behenna. The 35-year-old was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison by a military court for the killing of an Iraqi prisoner suspected of being part of Al-Qaeda.

Behenna’s sentence was later reduced to 15 years by the army clemency and parole board. He was released as soon as he was eligible for parole in 2014 and ordered to remain on parole until 2024.

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Behanna shot and killed Ali Mansur Mohamed in 2008 after he took him to a railroad culvert for questioning without authorization, instead of taking him home as instructed. Behenna stripped and questioned the prisoner at gunpoint about a roadside bombing that killed two members of a platoon under his command.

Behenna claimed he shot Mansur in self defence after the prisoner moved towards him and the soldier thought he might reach for his weapon. Afterwards, Behenna didn’t inform anyone of the killing, according to the Washington Post, and Iraqi police found Mansur’s body the next day.

Not only does the presidential pardon free Behenna of the restrictions of parole for the next five years, it also clears his record of the conviction. In a statement, Sarah Sanders said Behenna’s case “has attracted broad support from the military, Oklahoma elected officials, and the public.”

“Behenna is entirely deserving of this Grant of Executive Clemency,” Sanders wrote.

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However Sanders’ enthusiasm for the former “model prisoner” is not shared by human rights groups, including the ACLU who lambasted the president for pardoning a “convicted murderer and war criminal.”

Many critics took to Twitter to share their dismay at the presidential pardon, and highlight particularly gruesome details pertaining to the killing and Behenna’s subsequent statements.

Behenna’s case has been aided greatly thanks to family ties and legal expertise. His father is Scott Behenna, who has worked for both the FBI and Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. While his mother, Vicki Behenna, is an attorney and former longtime federal prosecutor in Oklahoma City, reports NPR.

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