In a shock admission, Navy SEAL medic Corey Scott admitted in court that he was responsible for the death of an injured militant fighter from the so-called Islamic State (IS) in 2017.
The medic confessed to suffocating the fighter while on the stand for the defence of Special Ops Chief Edward Gallagher, who is accused of murdering the young militant.
Iraqi forces found the injured militant suffering from a leg wound and a collapsed lung sustained from combat in Mosul. The forces tied him to the hood of their truck and drove for two hours to their basecamp. After reaching the operating base they untied him from the vehicle and left him on the ground outside the base, struggling to breathe.
Defendant Gallagher, who is also a medic, treated the young fighter briefly for injuries before using his knife to stab him repeatedly in the neck.
Scott, who witnessed the stabbing, says that the man survived the attack and was breathing normally after he and Gallagher treated his wounds.
Claiming that he believed that Iraqi forces would torture the fighter to death, Scott told the court that he put his thumb over the man's air tube, who then suffocated. The medic described the incident as a mercy killing.
Scott's confession came as a surprise to the court, who are trialling Edward Gallagher for a potential life sentence for war crimes in Iraq.
The admission however, made it apparent that the prosecution never questioned cause of death of the young fighter.
"From the moment NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service) got involved, they ignored everything that didn't fit their case," said defence attorney Tim Parlatore. "What we learned today is Chief Gallagher is not guilty of murder."
According to the defence, accusations against Gallagher were fabricated in order to force him from command. The court-martial jury must now decide whether or not the allegation that Gallagher murdered the injured militant is a war crime or mutiny from his subordinates.
Gallagher is also charged, however, with the attempted murder of two civilians. The Chief of Special Operations is accused of shooting and wounding a schoolgirl and elderly man from a sniper perch in Iraq.
U.S. President Donald Trump said last month that he was considering pardoning several members of the military who are on trial for war crimes, one of which is believed to be Gallagher.