ACLU slams Trump for Behenna pardon: He 'should prevent war crimes, not endorse' them

ACLU slams Trump for Behenna pardon: He 'should prevent war crimes, not endorse' them
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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) accused President TrumpDonald John TrumpLiz Cheney: 'Send her back' chant 'inappropriate' but not about race, gender Booker: Trump is 'worse than a racist' Top Democrat insists country hasn't moved on from Mueller MORE on Tuesday of endorsing war crimes after Trump pardoned a U.S. soldier convicted of murdering an Iraqi prisoner.

The group said that Trump's pardon of Michael Behenna for his 2009 conviction of murdering an unarmed Iraqi man whom he had accused of being involved in an explosive attack was tantamount to endorsing war crimes.

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"This pardon is a presidential endorsement of a murder that violated the military's own code of justice," Hina Shamsi, the ACLU's national security project director, said in a statement.

"The military appeals court found Behenna disobeyed orders, became the aggressor against his prisoner, and had no justification for killing a naked, unarmed Iraqi man in the desert, away from an actual battlefield. Trump, as Commander-in-Chief, and top military leaders should prevent war crimes, not endorse or excuse them," Shamsi added.

In a statement Monday explaining the pardon, the White House pointed to wide support for Behenna within the military and his home state of Oklahoma, while not addressing the charge for which he was convicted.

"Mr. Behenna’s case has attracted broad support from the military, Oklahoma elected officials, and the public," the statement read. "In light of these facts, Mr. Behenna is entirely deserving of this Grant of Executive Clemency."

Behenna was originally sentenced in 2009 to 15 years in prison for the murder of Ali Mansur Mohamed, a suspected al Qaeda operative whom Behenna was tasked with releasing in his hometown due to insufficient evidence.

Oklahoma's attorney general praised Trump's decision, referring to the incident as "mistakes" that Behenna had admitted to making.

“I commend President Trump’s decision to grant a full pardon for Mr. Behenna,” state Attorney General Mike Hunter (R) said in a statement. “Mr. Behenna served his country with distinction, honor and sacrifice. He has admitted to his mistakes, has learned from them and deserves to move on from this incident without living under its cloud for the rest of his life."