San Diego Rep. Duncan Hunter wants President Donald Trump to intervene in the prison conditions of a decorated Navy SEAL who faces court-martial on charges in connection with the death of a young ISIS fighter in Iraq.
Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher is being held at Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar on charges of premeditated murder for the May 2017 stabbing death in Mosul, Iraq of an injured ISIS fighter who they estimate was about 15 years old. He is also charged with aggravated assault for shooting Iraqi civilians.
Gallagher pleaded not guilty to all charges on Friday.
The special-ops chief has been held in the Miramar Brig since Sept. 11, when he was arrested at the Camp Pendleton Intrepid Spirit Center, but Hunter says his pre-trial confinement conditions are not appropriate for "an American war hero who has served 19 years."
In a letter to President Trump, Hunter claims that Gallagher's prison conditions are "irregularly harsh" and are affecting his right to legal representation.
"Chief Gallagher has been forced into general population which consists mostly of convicted sex offenders and pedophiles," Hunter wrote in his letter.
A spokesperson for Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar said there is no evidence that any of Gallagher's court proceedings have been delayed due to his confinement.
He said for all of the claims raised in Hunter's letter, the brig has been in compliance with their policies and national standards.
Per Navy policy, Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar is used by all four branches of the armed services and the Coast Guard as a confinement and correctional facility for both pre-trial and post-trial prisoners, the spokesperson said.
Hunter also claimed Gallagher and his lawyer "are forced to speak with their client in rooms that allegedly have cameras, guards and most likely microphones."
A spokesperson for Navy Consolidated Brig Miramar denied Hunter's claim.
"There are no cameras or listening devices (i.e., microphones) in the attorney - client rooms. The attorney visit; however, may be observed by a correctional specialist from outside the room," the spokesperson said.
Read Hunter's full letter below:
Gallagher's attorneys have argued that the Naval chief should await trial at home but a judge ruled on Thursday Gallagher will not be released to await trial.
Hunter has strongly defended Gallagher and last week said the chief's case should be dismissed. He said in a statement that "no credible evidence has been provided that this ISIS fighter was murdered as opposed to dying from his terrorist actions."
The Navy has previously outlined its evidence, including cellphone photos that show Gallagher holding up the head of the deceased fighter during a reenlistment ceremony.
Prosecutors also presented evidence that they say shows Gallagher tried to bribe fellow SEALs to not talk about the incident to NCIS investigators.
The defense argues Gallagher was turned in by his subordinates because he was too tough on them.
Gallagher has served 19 years in the U.S. Navy and more than 14 years as a Navy SEAL, his attorney said.
In 2017, Gallagher was ranked as the top SEAL chief, and his platoon was ranked as the top SEAL platoon, the website said.
During his service, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal twice, an Army Commendation Medal, and nearly a dozen other decorations.
If convicted on the most serious charge, Gallagher could face life in prison.