[QODLink]
Americas

US soldier in court over Afghan massacre

Prosecutors say they will seek death penalty for Robert Bales, accused of killing 16 civilians in a drunken rampage.
Last Modified: 06 Nov 2012 11:27

Military prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty for a US soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers when he ventured out of his camp drunk earlier this year.

Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, 39, had allegedly been drinking whiskey and watching a violent action movie with comrades before heading out of his base twice to massacre victims including women and children in two nearby villages.

The shootings in Afghanistan's Kandahar province in March marked the worst case of civilian slaughter blamed on an individual US soldier since the Vietnam War and eroded already strained US-Afghan ties after more than a decade of conflict in the country.

Live Box 201239113414952721

The lead prosecutor, Lieutenant-Colonel Jay Morse, said he was submitting a "capital referral" in the case, requesting that Bales be executed if convicted.

The soldier's wife and lawyer have claimed that Bales, a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, could not remember what he did on the night of March 11 in the Panjwayi district.

But prosecutors refuted that at the start of a so-called Article 32 hearing, held to determine whether there is enough evidence to hold a full court martial over the killings.

"He was lucid, he was coherent, he was responsive," said Morse at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, adding that he admitted to the crimes, reportedly saying: "It's bad, really bad."

Bales faces 16 counts of premeditated murder and six counts of attempted murder, as well as charges of assault and
wrongfully possessing and using steroids and alcohol while deployed.

The hearing is expected to last two weeks and include witness testimony in Afghanistan carried by live video, including villagers and Afghan soldiers.

According to Morse, Bales had been drinking with two fellow soldiers before he left his base, Camp Belambay, and went to a village where he committed the first killings.

Morse said Bales then returned to the camp and told one of his drinking buddies "I just shot up some people," before leaving again for a second village am killing more people. Morse called Bales' actions "deliberate, methodical."

363

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
Featured on Al Jazeera
As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it's a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good.
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Tokyo government claims its homeless population has hit a record low, but analysts - and the homeless - beg to differ.
3D printers can cheaply construct homes and could soon be deployed to help victims of catastrophe rebuild their lives.
Featured
Pro-Russia leaders' election in Ukraine's east shows bloody conflict is far from a peaceful resolution.
Critics challenge Canberra's move to refuse visas for West Africans in Ebola-besieged countries.
A key issue for Hispanics is the estimated 11.3 million immigrants in the US without papers who face deportation.
In 1970, only two mosques existed in the country, but now more than 200 offer sanctuary to Japan's Muslims.
Hundreds of the country's reporters eke out a living by finding news - then burying it for a price.