President Trump on Monday pardoned a former Army lieutenant who served five years in federal prison after being convicted of killing an Iraqi prisoner during an interrogation.
First Lt. Michael Behenna shot Ali Mansur, an Iraqi man believed to be connected to Al Qaeda, while interrogating him about an attack that left two American soldiers dead in 2008.
Behenna claimed that he shot Mansur in the chest and head in self-defense after the suspected terrorist threw a piece of concrete at him and reached for his gun. A military court nevertheless found him guilty of “unpremeditated murder in a combat zone” in 2009 and sentenced him to 25 years in prison. He was released on parole in 2014.
The White House cited the support Behenna has received from elected officials in Oklahoma and his record as a prisoner in justifying the pardon. Behenna “has attracted broad support from the military, Oklahoma elected officials, and the public,” the White House statement read. “Further, while serving his sentence Mr. Behenna was a model prisoner. In light of these facts, Mr. Behenna is entirely deserving of this Grant of Executive Clemency,” the statement continued.
The pardon comes after the Oklahoma attorney general sent three letters asking for leniency on Behenna’s behalf.
“Simply put, American troops risking their lives in war to protect us deserve a better legal process than the hand that was dealt to Behenna,” one letter states.
Behenna, who told fellow soldiers “he would do it again, and he did not feel bad about it because he just lost two guys,” will now have his right to vote and own firearms restored.
Trump has similarly expressed support for Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn, a Green Beret charged by the Army in connection with the 2010 killing of a Taliban-linked militant.
“At the request of many, I will be reviewing the case of a ‘U.S. Military hero,’ Major Matt Golsteyn, who is charged with murder,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “He could face the death penalty from our own government after he admitted to killing a Terrorist bomb maker while overseas.”