U.S. Soldier Referred To Court Martial Over Afghan Slayings

by
Reuters
A U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers in two forays from his remote military camp has been referred to a court martial over the slayings and could face the death penalty, the military said on Wednesday.

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, (L) 1st platoon sergeant, Blackhorse Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, is seen during an exercise at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, in this August 23, 2011

A U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers in two forays from his remote military camp has been referred to a court martial over the slayings and could face the death penalty, the military said on Wednesday.

The trial of Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales is scheduled to take place at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, but no date has been set, military officials said in a statement.

Military prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Bales. They accuse him of gunning down the villagers - mostly women and children - over a five-hour period in March.

His lawyers have not set out an alternative theory to the prosecution's case, but have pointed out inconsistencies in pretrial testimony and highlighted incidents before the shooting where Bales lost his temper easily, possibly setting up an argument that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The shootings in Afghanistan's Kandahar province mark one of the deadliest civilian slaughters that the military has blamed on an individual U.S. soldier since the Vietnam War. The killings damaged already strained U.S.-Afghan relations.

The charges against Bales include 16 specifications of premeditated murder, six specifications of attempted murder and seven specifications of assault, the military said.

Bales is being held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.