A US Marine has been pardoned by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte for the murder of a transgender Filipino woman, Jennifer Laude in 2014. At the time, Laude’s murder sparked widespread condemnation and anger in the former American colony.

On the evening of October 11, 2014 after meeting in the Ambyanz disco bar in Olongapo the pair allegedly went back to a nearby motel, where staff later found Laude’s body, her neck blackened by strangulation marks and with her head in a toilet bowl.

Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton testified in court that he had attacked Laude after realising she was a transgender woman, though he also claimed that she was still alive when he had left the room.

The surprise move means that Pemberton will now walk free from jail after having served just over half of his 10 year sentence. Aged just 19 at the time of the murder, Pemberton was in the Philippines to take part in regular military exercises.

 The pardon was announced by Mr Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque.

“The President has erased the remaining punishment against Pemberton,” said Roque. “He can now go home because of the pardon.”

There was no immediate announcement of a release date.

Lawyer Virginia Suarez said in a statement: “This is another injustice, not only to Jennifer Laude and family but a grave injustice to the Philippine people. This is a travesty of Philippine sovereignty and democracy.”

Others have also been quick to condemn Rodrigo Duterte and the Philippines government with UP Babaylan, a local LGBTQI rights group, saying in a statement co-signed by other rights groups that Mr Duterte’s decision sent a “loud and clear message that a Filipino trans woman’s life does not matter.”

On twitter, the hashtag #JusticeForJenniferLaude was trending on Monday night.

Bahaghari, another Filippino LGBTQI rights group, tweeted: “For as long as the US maintains hegemony over our military, economy, and politics, there will be no #JusticeForJennifer and for the Filipino LGBTQ+.”

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