7, May 2019
United States President Donald Trump has granted full pardon to a former soldier who was convicted of killing an Iraqi prisoner.
Michael Behenna, who was sentenced to 15 years for the killing of Iraqi prisoner Ali Mansur Mohamed, was pardoned on Monday, according to a White House statement.
“Mr. Behenna’s case has attracted broad support from the military, Oklahoma elected officials, and the public,” read the statement.
The White House said that more than two-dozen generals and admirals, along with numerous Oklahoma officials, had expressed support for Behenna, an Oklahoma native.
The statement said that Behenna had been “a model prisoner.”
The move came specifically after Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter petitioned the Trump administration to pardon the convicted soldier.
Behenna deployed to Iraq as an army ranger of the 101st Airborne Division at the height of the US troop surge in the country. He led an infantry platoon of 18 men.
Following a deadly roadside bomb on a three-truck convoy, which Behenna was accompanying, north of Baghdad, Mansur was apprehended as a suspected al-Qaeda militant who may have helped carry out the attack.
Mansur was interrogated by the military but ultimately freed due to lacking evidence proving he had any role in the attack.
Behenna was ordered to transport Mansur back to his village to set him free.
The US soldier, however, decided to further “interrogate” Mansur. Behenna ultimately stripped the prisoner naked, interrogated him without authorization and killed him by shooting him twice.
“I stripped him naked to intimidate him,” Behenna later said about the ordeal during his trial.
“I told him I wanted more intelligence on local leaders of al-Qaeda, and that I wanted him to tell me about his stops in Saudi Arabia and Syria, and the [roadside] bomb explosion. But he kept saying, ‘I don’t know. I don’t know.’ ”
Behenna killed Mansur by shooting him in the chest and head.
During court-martial, Behenna claimed that he had been protecting himself after the prisoner tried to grab his gun while being interrogated.
The Army, however, believed that the argument couldn’t be valid because Behenna had already been pointing his weapon at the prisoner before Mansur could’ve reached for his gun.
Behenna was consequently found guilty of unpremeditated murder in a combat zone and was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2009. The US Army Clemency and Parole Board reduced the sentence to 15 years a year later.
Five years ago, Behenna was given parole and started working in a ranch.
The US invasion of Iraq was carried out in 2003 under the pretext that the regime of Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD). No such weapons, however, were ever found in Iraq.
More than one million Iraqis were killed as a result of the occupation and the subsequent occupation of the country, according to the California-based investigative organization Project Censored.
The deteriorating security situation caused by the US occupation also lead to a surge of terrorism-related violence in the country, ultimately giving way to the formation of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.