Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman/AP

Michael Behenna was found guilty by a military court of murdering Ali Mansur Mohamed

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May 07, 2019 03:28 PM

President Donald Trump has granted a full pardon to Michael Behenna, a former Army lieutenant who was convicted in 2009 of killing an Iraqi prisoner suspected of being part of al-Qaida.

Behenna, 35, was found guilty by a military court of unpremeditated murder in a combat zone for shooting Ali Mansur Mohamed in 2008. Although he was initially sentenced to 25 years in prison, he was released on parole in 2014.

Behenna claimed he acted in self defense.

According to NPR, Mansur was being questioned about a roadside explosion that had killed members of Behenna’s platoon. He was released due to lack of direct evidence tying him to the explosion. Weeks later, Behenna decided to question Mansur on his own, according to the Washington Post.

According to testimony in military court, Mansur was naked and unarmed when he was shot to death. The New York Times, citing court filings, reports Behenna told Mansur, “This is your last chance to tell the information or you will die.” Mansur said that he would talk, but Behenna shot him anyway, later telling other soldiers, “he would do it again, and he did not feel bad about it because he just lost two guys,” according to the filing.

Behenna’s attorneys argued the prisoner had attempted to take his weapon, and that the soldier had shot the prisoner because he feared for his life.

In a statement, the office of the White House press secretary said that the U.S. Army’s highest appellate court had concerns about how the lower court had handled Behenna’s self-defense claim. “Additionally, the Army Clemency and Parole Board reduced his sentence to 15 years and paroled him as soon as he was eligible,” the release states.

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The White House says that Behenna’s case has attracted “broad support from the military, Oklahoma’s elected officials, and the public. Thirty-seven generals and admirals…signed a brief in support of Mr. Behenna’s self-defense claim.” The statement also goes on to list several Oklahoma lawmakers who have advocated for Behenna’s pardon.

“Further, while serving his sentence, Mr. Behenna was a model prisoner,” the press release concludes. “In light of these facts, Mr. Behenna is entirely deserving of this Grant of Executive Clemency.”

Behenna’s family had long advocated for his pardon. His father, Scott Behenna, has worked for both the FBI and Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, according to NPR. His mother, Vicki Behenna, is an attorney and former federal prosecutor.

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