The judge in the murder trial for Navy SEAL Chief Edward Gallagher has postponed his court-martial for three months at the request of his defense attorneys, a Navy official said Wednesday.
The trial, originally scheduled to begin Feb. 19, will now kick off on May 28, according to Navy spokesman Brian O’Rourke.
Gallagher, who has been accused of stabbing a wounded ISIS fighter to death as others rendered medical aid during the 2017 Battle of Mosul, has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include allegations he tried to obstruct justice and intimidate other SEALs from testifying against him.
Philip Stackhouse, Gallagher’s civilian attorney, said the delay was necessary to evaluate the more than 1,000 pages of discovery and hundreds of pages of transcripts from other witnesses in the case that he received on Tuesday. Stackhouse also said the judge granted a request to have an Iraqi general in command of the Emergency Response Division testify in the case, which would require coordination with the State Department.
“General Abbas [al-Jubouri] was ordered produced by the judge — that means the government must get him here,” Stackhouse told Task & Purpose, adding that Abbas was willing to testify in the case.
In October 2018, an NCIS agent went to Iraq to interview Abbas of Iraqi ERD and his subordinate, Col. Omar Issa Kadhim. Abbas spoke glowingly of Gallagher, who he called “Chief Ed,” the investigative report said.
Abbas stated that Gallagher was “very professional, a hard worker, and was more proficient at his job than any American he has ever worked with.” The Iraqi ERD, a unit that has itself been accused of war crimes, had worked alongside the members of SEAL Team 7 throughout the operation to clear Mosul of ISIS fighters in the summer of 2017.
The general credited the SEALs for his unit’s success, saying that without their assistance “the Iraqis would have failed.” He then gave his account of the circumstances surrounding the capture of the ISIS fighter and disputed allegations that Gallagher stabbed him.
“He died from gunshot wounds,” Abbas told the investigator. “If I wanted to kill someone, I wouldn’t do it in front of witnesses; there were 20 plus people out there, including several Iraqi officers. He would never do that. The ISIS member died, and then we [ERD] left the area, leaving the dead body behind, due to having to be somewhere else.”
Prosecutors allege Gallagher stabbed the fighter soon after he and his fellow SEALs began giving him medical treatment. Afterward, Gallagher allegedly posed for photos and conducted a reenlistment ceremony near the corpse.
In one photo described by NCIS Agent Joseph Warpinski at a hearing in Nov. 2018, the SEAL Chief held up the dead fighter’s head, still attached to the body, with one hand while holding a knife in the other. A second photo showed Gallagher in a similar pose but zoomed out, with two other SEALs in the background. The third showed him holding the fighter’s head by his hair, which Warpinski said was apparently right after the reenlistment ceremony.
Separately, Gallagher’s immediate supervisor, Lt. Jacob Portier, has been charged with dereliction of duty in connection with the case for allegedly not properly reporting law of armed conflict violations up the chain of command. Portier has not yet officially entered a plea.
“Let me be clear: He’ll be pleading not guilty because he is innocent,” his attorney Jeremiah Sullivan said after a hearing in January.