SAN DIEGO — A Marine who worked jointly in Iraq with a decorated Navy SEAL accused of murder testified Thursday that the SEAL did not stab a teenage Islamic State prisoner in his care.
Marine Staff Sergeant Giorgio Kirylo said that he did not see stab wounds on the neck of the dead captive when he moved the body to position it for a so-called "trophy" photo.
Kirylo took the stand in the San Diego court-martial of SEAL Chief Edward Gallagher, who is accused of fatally stabbing the adolescent militant in 2017. Gallagher, 40, has pleaded not guilty to murder and attempted murder.
His statements followed testimony of an Iraqi general who said he was with the prisoner until he died, and that he did not see Gallagher stab him.
Two SEALs previously testified that they saw Gallagher plunge a knife into the prisoner's neck. Kirylo said he was close with the SEALs who said they witnessed the stabbing, but he has since ended those friendships because the men are liars.
Kirylo described Gallagher as an "old school" SEAL whose younger and inexperienced team members sometimes complained about his tactics.
Sergeant Kirylo described May 3, 2017 as a good day and a successful day for the platoon. He said they had conducted an air strike and two hours later Iraqi soldiers brought in the teenage ISIS detainee.
Kirylo said he watched Gallagher and other SEALs perform medical procedures on the detainee and never said Gallagher stab him.
Kirylo said when he moved the captive a bandage came off the teen's neck and there were no stab wounds. He said he and some of the men in the platoon took turns taking photos with the body because they were excited that they had coordinated an air strike with Iraqi troops that had killed Islamic State fighters including the captive's commander. Kirylo testified that he was the first one to take a so-called trophy and at one point picked him up by his hair to re-position his head onto his boot. He said he lifted him to "see how heavy he was" and got a peek under his bandages.
"This was our unofficial war trophy," he said.
Prosecutors on Thursday played helmet camera video in which Kirylo could be heard saying, "Eddie's about to put him out dude."
Iraqi General Abbas al-Jubouri, whose forces were partnered with U.S. troops, testified that he handed over the wounded militant to SEALs to keep him alive for interrogation.
The general was questioned June 3 and video of the testimony was shown to the jury on Thursday.
The general said during defense questioning that he did not see Gallagher harm the captive in any way — and if he had, he would have spoken up.
"If he did any mistake with this kid, or if anyone had from the Navy SEALs, I would have stopped them," al-Jubouri said.
Navy medics did their best to save the captive, he said.
When he was shown photos of the dead militant with bandages around his neck and tubes in his chest, al-Jubouri said he'd never seen the images before.
The general said the militant told him he was 17 years old.
The trial resumed a day after officials said a SEAL who testified that it was he — not Gallagher — who killed the wounded prisoner may face perjury charges. The Navy said it is reviewing Corey Scott's statements following his stunning testimony last week.
Witnesses had said they saw Gallagher stab a wounded Islamic State captive in the neck and shoot at two civilians during his 2017 tour in Iraq.
Scott testified that he actually killed the captive by plugging his breathing tube. Scott said he thought the boy would survive Gallagher's stabbing and wanted to spare him being tortured by Iraqi forces.
Prosecutors said Scott had never mentioned the asphyxiation in multiple conversations with them before the trial. Scott said they never asked him the cause of death.
The defense has repeatedly argued that Gallagher was being framed by tainted or even false evidence.
On Tuesday, the Navy's legal adviser to the commander overseeing the court-martial notified Scott's lawyer, Brian Ferguson, that Scott's testimony could be used against him if he lied.
Capt. Donald King's email said Scott's testimony directly contradicted "previous official statements — thus exposing him to prosecution."
Cmdr. Tam Lawrence, Naval Special Warfare spokesman, said Scott was granted immunity in exchange for the promise of truthful testimony.
Scott's statements were being reviewed but "no decisions have been made," she said.
Ferguson declined to comment.
Gallagher's superior, Master Chief Petty Officer Brian Alazzawi, testified Tuesday that Gallagher and his platoon were considered "rock stars" after returning from the 2017 deployment to Iraq in which they aided Iraqi forces in ousting ISIS from Mosul.
But he noticed some platoon members seemed dejected despite the praise.
Alazzawi said Special Operator First Class Craig Miller told him in October 2017 that Gallagher had stabbed a prisoner on May 3 while deployed.
Miller told Alazzawi that he was coming forward because Gallagher was being promoted and nominated for a Silver Star.
Alazzawi said he trusted Miller and found the report credible. He told the troop commander but the alleged war crime wasn't reported outside SEAL Team 7 until January 2018 — when Alazzawi got word that several SEALs had planned to go as high as the Navy commodore because nothing was being done.
Alazzawi did not explain why he and the troop commander had taken no action.
Closing arguments in the trial are expected early next week.