U.S. President Donald Trump says he will review the case of a former U.S. Army officer charged with murder for the 2010 killing of a man he suspected of being a Taliban bomb-maker in Afghanistan.
"At the request of many. I will be reviewing the case of a 'U.S. Military hero,' Major Matt Golsteyn, who is charged with murder," Trump wrote on Twitter on December 16.
“He could face the death penalty from our own government after he admitted to killing a Terrorist bomb maker while overseas,” the president added.
Trump’s tweet followed an interview that Golsteyn's attorney and his wife gave to Fox News earlier in the day defending the soldier.
An Army spokesman on December 13 said Golsteyn, a former Green Beret major, had been charged with murder in the death of an Afghan man during his 2010 deployment to the war-torn country.
A commander will review the warrant and decide whether the Green Beret, who was a captain at the time of the incident, will face a hearing that could lead to a court-martial.
Trump and other military and administration leaders have in the past made remarks about military criminal cases, actions that have led to legal appeals contending interference in court proceedings. Despite the lack of legal jurisdiction in a military case, a president does have wide authority to pardon criminal defendants.
Army Colonel Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, on December 16 said that "the allegations against Major Matt Golsteyn are a law-enforcement matter. The Department of Defense will respect the integrity of this process and provide updates when appropriate."
An initial investigation in 2014 was closed without any charges. But the Army reopened the investigation in 2016 after Golsteyn allegedly described in an interview how he and another soldier led the detained man off base, shot him, and buried his remains.
Golsteyn was leading a team of Army Special Forces troops at the time of the killing. He said he believed the man was a bomb-maker responsible for a blast that killed two U.S. Marines.
His attorney, Phillip Stackhouse, wrote in a tweet that Golsteyn is charged with "premeditated murder, a death-penalty offense for allegedly killing a Taliban bomb-maker during combat operations in Marjah, Afghanistan."
Stackhouse, during an interview with Fox News, denied "a narrative... put out" by military authorities that said Golsteyn "released this Taliban bomb-maker, walked him back to the house...and assassinated him in his house."
Golsteyn's wife Julie, also on Fox, denied that her husband had "killed someone in cold blood" and said that "there are a lot of words flying around that make this very difficult for us as a family."
She said he is scheduled to report to Fort Bragg in North Carolina on December 17.
With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters and The Army Times