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Trump pardons Army vet who stripped suspected al-Qaida prisoner naked and shot him twice: reports

In this July 17, 2014, file photo, Michael Behenna stands on land that he helps work in Medford, Okla. .
In this July 17, 2014, file photo, Michael Behenna stands on land that he helps work in Medford, Okla. . Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman via AP, File

The White House says President Donald Trump has granted a pardon to a former first lieutenant in the U.S. Army convicted in 2009 of killing an Iraqi prisoner.

Press Secretary Sarah Sanders says Trump granted clemency to Michael Behenna of Oklahoma.

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Behenna was convicted in 2009 of unpremeditated murder in a combat zone after killing a suspected al-Qaida terrorist in Iraq.

He was paroled in 2014 and had been scheduled to remain on parole until 2024.

A military court had sentenced Behenna to 25 years in prison. However, the Army’s highest appellate court noted concern about how the trial court had handled Behenna’s claim of self-defence, Sanders said. The Army Clemency and Parole Board also reduced his sentence to 15 years and paroled him as soon as he was eligible.

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Sanders says Behenna’s case attracted broad support from the military, Oklahoma elected officials and the public.

Oklahoma’s two Republican senators, James Lankford and Jim Inhofe, hailed the pardon, thanking Trump for giving Behenna “a clean slate.”

She also says Behenna was a model prisoner, and “in light of these facts, Mr. Behenna is entirely deserving” of the pardon.

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Behenna was convicted in the killing of Ali Mansur, a prisoner whom he stripped naked, interrogated without permission, then shot twice, The Washington Post reported.

Mansur’s release had been ordered prior to his killing because there wasn’t enough evidence to link him to al-Qaida, The Hill reported.

The newspaper added that Behenna reportedly killed Mansur while he was taking him back to his hometown.

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He was looking for the people that were responsible for an IED that killed two men in his unit, Oklahoma’s News 4 reported.

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Since the killing, he has maintained that he was protecting himself.

The veteran had been told that he would have to compete his parole before he could seen a pardon, but the Justice Department considered his case anyway.

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Behenna acknowledged during his trial that instead of taking the prisoner home as he was ordered, he took the man to a railroad culvert, stripped him, and then questioned him at gunpoint about a roadside bombing that had killed two members of Behenna’s platoon.

Behenna, a native of the Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond, said the man moved toward him and he shot him because Behenna thought he would try to take his gun.

Oklahoma’s attorney general first requested a pardon for Behenna in February 2018 and renewed his request last month.

Attorney General Mike Hunter said he believed Behenna’s conviction was unjustified because of erroneous jury instructions and the failure of prosecutors to turn over evidence supporting a self-defence claim.