President Donald Trump has pardoned a former American soldier convicted in 2009 for killing an Iraqi prisoner, the White House announced Monday.
Trump has signed an executive grant of clemency, a full pardon for the former first in the army, Lieutenant Michael Behenna of Oklahoma, press secretary Sarah Sanders said.
Behenna was convicted of unpremeditated murder in a combat zone after killing a suspected al-Qaida terrorist in Iraq. Bail was released in 2014 and was scheduled to remain on probation until 2024.
A military court had sentenced Behenna to 25 years in prison. However, the highest court of appeal of the army expressed concern about how the court of law treated Behenna's self-defense request, Sanders said. Even the Commission on clemency and freedom of the army has reduced his sentence to 15 years and released him only after admitting him.
Behenna's case has attracted widespread support from the army, elected officials of the Oklahoma and the public, Sanders said. He added that Behenna was a model prisoner while serving her sentence, and "in light of these facts, Mr. Behenna absolutely deserves" forgiveness.
During his trial, Behenna acknowledged that instead of taking the prisoner's house as he had been ordered, he took the man to a railroad culvert, undressed him, and then questioned him in the air at a roadside bombing who had killed two members of Behenna's platoon.
Behenna, a native of the Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond, said the man moved to him and shot him because Behenna thought he would try to take his gun.
The Oklahoma attorney general first asked Behenna's pardon in February 2018 and renewed her request last month. Attorney General Mike Hunter said he believes the conviction of Behenna is unjustified due to erroneous instructions from the jury and the failure of prosecutors to deliver the evidence in support of a request for self-defense.