By Vakkas Dogantekin
ANKARA (AA) – Following the long tradition of U.S. administrations to refuse accountability for violations of international law and a litany of war crimes, President Donald Trump issued full pardons for two American soldiers either accused or convicted of war crimes.
Trump, who in October made his intention to pardon war criminals evident saying that “We train our boys to be killing machines, then prosecute them when they kill!” kept his promise signing Friday an Executive Grant of Clemency, or full pardon, for Army First Lt. Clint Lorance and Army Maj. Mathew Golsteyn.
Lorance was released Friday night from prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
He was convicted of second-degree murder by a military judge in 2013 and sentenced to 19 years in prison for ordering his soldiers to kill three unarmed civilians in Afghanistan during a military mission in 2012.
Nine members of Lorance's platoon testified against him during the trial.
He was also found guilty of attempted murder of a third Afghan citizen who was not injured.
The Republican president also dismissed charges against Golsteyn who was accused of killing an Afghan man.
- President reverses demotion of Gallagher
Trump also ordered the promotion of Navy SEAL Edward R. Gallagher to the E-7 grade, the rank he held before standing trial.
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham defended the president's controversial action and said: "The President, as commander-in-chief, is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the law is enforced and when appropriate, that mercy is granted".
"These actions are in keeping with this long history. As the President has stated, 'when our soldiers have to fight for our country, I want to give them the confidence to fight," Grisham added.
"A shameful use of presidential powers," said the non-profit American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in a statement criticizing the move.
"It sends a clear message of disrespect for the law, morality, the military justice system, and those in the military who abide by the laws of war," the NBC news quoted ACLU as saying.
Glenn Greenwald, an investigative American journalist working for the Intercept media, denounced Trump's unilateral action that overruled military leaders at the Pentagon.
"A President who reveres Mohammed bin Salman [crown prince of Saudi Arabia] is obviously going to act to protect his own monsters, murderers and psychopaths," Greenwald said on Twitter.
"The grand American tradition of immunizing its war criminals - while preaching morality to the world - continues with these vile pardons by Trump," he added.
- Gallagher case
In one of the most controversial court cases of the U.S. Army, a panel of Marine officers in San Diego, California in July has acquitted a chief Navy SEAL accused by military prosecutors of committing war crimes during his 2017 deployment to Iraq.
Nearly a year after Gallagher was charged with murder, attempted murder and other war crimes in Mosul, Iraq, including stabbing to death a wounded Daesh prisoner of war, he was found guilty on a single charge -- appearing in an inappropriate photo -- and released from custody.
He was demoted until Trump's pardon on Friday.
The jurors ignored the testimony of a dozen of officers in Gallagher's Alpha Platoon, SEAL Team 7, who said he had shot at least two civilians from a sniper perch, among other crimes.
Some of the platoon members who testified against Gallagher were called traitors and threatened with violence in a secret Facebook group, according to the New York Times.
In court, some said they had started carrying weapons to defend themselves against possible attacks.
The prosecution's remarks that Gallagher’s own text messages and photos incriminated him fell on deaf ears. They included photos of Gallagher holding the dead militant teen up by the hair and clutching a knife in his other hand.
A text message Gallagher sent said “got him with my hunting knife.”
The prosecution asserted the proof of Gallagher’s guilt was in his own words, his own photos and the testimony of his fellow troops.