WASHINGTON - US President Donald Trump said on Friday he was considering pardons for "two or three" American soldiers charged with war crimes, a move he also said would be controversial but justified because they had been treated "unfairly."
Trump told reporters at the White House that he had not decided yet on the cases but may wait until the accused stood trial before deciding whether to grant them pardons.
"Some of these soldiers are people that have fought hard, long. You know, we teach them how to be great fighters, and then when they fight sometime, they get really treated very unfairly," Trump said.
He did not identify which cases he was reviewing.
The New York Times on May 18 reported Trump had asked the Justice Department for paperwork on several high-profile war crimes cases in preparation for possible pardons to be announced on or around the US Memorial Day holiday honoring fallen troops. This year's holiday is to be observed on May 27.
One request, according to the Times report, was for Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, a decorated US Navy SEAL court-martialed on charges he fatally stabbed a helpless, wounded Islamic State fighter in his custody, and shot two unarmed civilians from a sniper's perch during his 2017 deployment to Iraq.
The 39-year-old combat veteran and platoon leader has pleaded not guilty to all charges. Defense lawyers say the allegations against him were fabricated by subordinate SEAL team members disgruntled with his leadership style and seeking to force him out.
Gallagher's trial was delayed this week until June 10 at the earliest. His lawyer told Reuters he had not asked for a pardon, and Gallagher declined to comment on the possibility of presidential clemency when asked by reporters in court.