A US navy SEAL has been cleared of murdering a wounded Islamic State captive in Iraq in 2017.
Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, a 19 year veteran, had been accused of a so-called "trophy kill" on May 3rd 2017 following an airstrike near Mosul.
Prosecutors claimed Gallagher's own text messages and photos incriminated him.
They included photos of Gallagher holding the dead militant up by the hair and clutching a knife in his other hand. A text message Gallagher sent while deployed said "got him with my hunting knife".
But his defence team insisted there was no body, no forensic evidence and no blood found on the knife and that there were a number of things that could have caused the militant's death, including internal injuries from the airstrike explosions.
They claimed he had been framed by disgruntled platoon members trying to get rid of a demanding commander and prevent him from being awarded another medal and getting a promotion.
As well as the murder charge, Gallagher was cleared of attempted murder in the shootings of two Iraqi civilians and the unlawful discharge of his firearm by shooting at noncombatants.
He was convicted of posing for photos with the dead body of the captive, who prosecutors say was about 15-years-old, but has already been held for longer than the maximum sentence for that offence.
Defence lawyer Marc Mukasey said Gallagher reacted with "tears of joy, emotion, freedom and absolute euphoria" when the court martial panel of five Marines and two sailors, including a SEAL, announced its verdict.
Immunity from prosecution
During the two-week trial both sides accused witnesses, including almost a dozen other SEALs, of lying on the stand.
The most controversial moment came when a medic, Special Operator Corey Scott, claimed he saw Gallagher stab the wounded prisoner in the neck, but that it was actually him who had killed the man by placing his thumb over his breathing tube in what he described as an act of mercy.
Scott, in common with most of the witnesses, had been granted immunity from prosecution in return for their testimony.
Seven SEALs said Gallagher unexpectedly stabbed the captive moments after he and the other SEAL medics treated the detainee.
During the trial, it emerged that nearly all the platoon members readily posed for photos with the dead prisoner and watched as Gallagher read his reenlistment oath near the body in an impromptu ceremony.
Gallagher's lawyers said pictures of him clutching the corpse's hair and his texts about his knife skills were just dark humour.
The evidence that he had stabbed the prisoner was contradicted by an Iraqi general - who handed the wounded man to the SEALs and Marine Staff Sgt Giorgio Kirylo who said after the militant died he moved the body to take a "cool guy trophy" photo with it and saw no stab wounds on his neck.
Main image: Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher (centre) walks with his wife, Andrea Gallagher (left) and advisor Bernard Kerik as they leave a military court on a US naval base in San Diego | Image: Gregory Bull/AP/Press Association Images