President Trump has granted a full pardon to a former US soldier convicted of killing a suspected al-Qaeda terrorist in Iraq. Press secretary Sarah Sanders described former Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna as "entirely deserving" of the executive grant of clemency in a Monday statement, noting he was a "model prisoner" with "broad support" from the public and military, per the AP. The Oklahoma native was sentenced by military court to 25 years in prison, later reduced to 15 years, for unpremeditated murder in a combat zone in 2009. At trial, Behenna admitted he acted against orders when he shot Ali Mansur in a railroad culvert in 2008 after questioning him about a roadside bomb that had killed two of his platoon members. Behenna—present for the bombing, per the Washington Post—said he opened fire as the man moved, in what Behenna claimed was maybe an effort to grab the gun.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter last month renewed his February 2018 request for a pardon, arguing prosecutors failed to turn over evidence that Behenna acted in self-defense. Though the Post reports that Behenna went to interrogate Mansur on his own, "without authorization," Sanders said the Army's highest appellate court also noted concern about how the self-defense claim was handled. "Thirty-seven generals and admirals, along with a former Inspector General of the Department of Defense, signed a brief in support of Mr. Behenna's self-defense claim," she said. Describing Mansur as naked and unarmed, however, Hina Shamsi of the ACLU National Security Project calls the pardon "a presidential endorsement of a murder that violated the military's own code of justice," per CNN. Paroled in 2014, Behenna was to remain on parole until 2024. (Read more President Trump stories.)