In a further development of the trial of Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, seven Navy SEALs who served in the same platoon have been granted immunity to testify against their teammate.
Chief Gallagher has been charged with four different violations of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Gallagher, more specifically, is accused of murdering a captured teenage ISIS fighter by stabbing him in the neck and body with a hunting knife, shooting at unarmed civilians, obstructing justice by encouraging his SEAL platoon members not to disclose his actions on three separate occasions, using a dead ISIS fighter as a prop during his reenlistment ceremony, and finally, abusing banned controlled substances.
In addition to the seven SEALs, the Navy prosecutors will call on 13 other witnesses to testify against Chief Gallagher. The defense attorneys asked the judge, Captain Aaron Rugh (USN), to withhold some information from the witnesses’ testimonies over concerns that they might negatively prejudice the jury. More specifically, they asked that Chief Gallagher’s repeated kill-count bragging be suppressed. Chief Gallagher claimed to have killed 200 people during a single deployment to Iraq in 2017.
Furthermore, the defense attorneys have requested that the court-martial suppress evidence that was seized from Chief Gallagher’s three cell phones. It is believed that these contain incriminatory evidence, such as photographs, videos, and text messages, proving Chief Gallagher’s war crimes.
The case has attracted much publicity. A campaign, “Free Eddie,” has been launched by Chief Gallagher’s family and friends. It has been supported by many active and former SEALs. Further, Representative Duncan Hunter has written a letter to President Donald Trump requesting that Chief Gallagher’s confinement situation be improved. Since his arrest in September, the SEAL has been interned in the Navy Consolidated Brig Miramar in San Diego.
Some questions are bound to arise from the court granting immunity to these other SEALs in exchange for their testimonies. In a court of justice, witnesses are expected to testify and don’t require immunity to do so. It is reasonable to surmise that the seven SEALs have been granted immunity for their part in the alleged war crimes committed in exchange for testifying against Chief Gallagher.
Alongside Chief Gallagher, his platoon commander, Lieutenant Jacob “Jake” Portier, is also facing charges of war crimes. As the leader of a SEAL Team 7 platoon and the ranking officer on the ground, Lt. Portier is accused of covering up Chief Gallagher’s war crimes.
The court-martial has already begun but the trial phase won’t start until February 19.