Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher. File Photo
The lead prosecutor in the court-martial of a US Navy SEAL charged with war crimes was ordered removed from the case on Monday because he electronically tracked email communications of defense lawyers without a warrant, a Navy spokesman said.
Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, who the presiding Navy judge freed from pre-trial base confinement last week, is due to go on trial in San Diego on June 10 in a case that has drawn the attention of US President Donald Trump.
Gallagher, 39, a decorated career combat veteran, is charged with murdering a wounded Daesh fighter in his custody, and with attempted murder in the wounding of two unarmed civilians — a school girl and elderly man — shot from a sniper's perch.
Gallagher has pleaded not guilty to all charges, including obstructing justice in the case, which stems from his latest tour of duty in Mosul, Iraq, in 2017. If convicted, he could face life in prison. The proceedings are being conducted at US Naval Base San Diego.
The special operations platoon leader says he was wrongly accused and that fellow SEAL team members testifying against him, several under grants of immunity, are disgruntled subordinates who fabricated allegations to force him from command.
His defense team had filed motions seeking either to dismiss the charges altogether or to remove the senior government trial attorney on grounds of alleged misconduct by the prosecutor and agents of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).
At issue was the prosecution's admitted use of electronic tracking software secretly embedded in email messages sent to members of the defense team, which the defense said amounted to warrantless electronic surveillance.
Prosecutors have said the email "auditing tools" they used were designed merely to detect the flow of emails without revealing their content and were aimed at pinpointing the source of leaks from case files sealed by the judge.
The two sides argued the matter for two days last week.
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