A Navy judge presiding the case of a Navy SEAL accused of committing war crimes in Iraq in 2017 has ruled that performing a reenlistment ceremony over the corpse of an enemy fighter doesn't constitute a war crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Navy Times reports.
Navy SEAL Chief Edward "Eddie" Gallagher stands accused of executing an unarmed ISIS detainee with a hunting knife following the Battle of Mosul.
According to his charge sheet, Gallagher posed next to the body and took pictures before carrying out his reenlistment ceremony and hovering a drone over the corpse.
Navy Times reports that Navy Capt. Aaron Rugh determined in a Friday ruling that the reenlistment ceremony and drone flight "are not prohibited acts" under Article 134 of the UCMJ, which covers unenumerated offenses that undermine good order and discipline and bring discredit to the U.S armed forces
"The judge is saying that two of the specs under charge 3, the [Article] 134 violation, did not rise to the level of war crimes," Navy spokesman Brian O'Rourke told Task & Purpose. "The judge said 'these are in extremely bad taste, and you should have known better.'"
When asked how such a reenlistment ceremony didn't qualify as prejudicial to good order and discipline under Article 134's broad definition, O'Rourke demurred: "I can't answer for the judge."
Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward "Eddie" Gallagher at home and in Iraq in 2017.(U.S. Navy)
Lt. Jacob Portier, who faces charges of dereliction of duty amid claims that he covered up Gallaghers alleged crimes, reportedly told his superior officer that,"there was nothing criminal" involved in the reenlistment ceremony, according to documents obtained by Navy Times: "It was just in poor taste."
"It is honorable for a Navy SEAL to reenlist on the battlefield, the same battlefield where he was willing to sacrifice his own life to protect our nation," Portier's defense attorney told Navy Times.
Gallagher's civilian attorney Phillip Stackhouse did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the ruling from Task & Purpose.
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