US army seeking death pentaly in massacre of 16 Afghans
By Meena Haseeb - Thu Dec 20 2012, 8:52 am
The commanders at Joint Base Lewis-McChord have decided to refer the case against Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales for a general court-martial on charges that he murdered 16 civilians in a late-night shooting rampage outside a remote Army outpost in southern Afghanistan.
Wednesday’s announcement follows last month’s pretrial hearing which brought strong evidence against Bales; however the death penalty for a U.S. soldier who has committed war crimes is decidedly rare.
Bales allegedly was seen returning to the base after the shootings with his clothing, boots and weapon covered with blood; DNA evidence provided a match between that blood and blood found at one of the shooting scenes.
Prosecutors at a week of pretrial hearings in early November at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where Sergeant Bales was stationed, suggested that he had acted in deliberate fury, perhaps in revenge for a bomb attack that had caused a fellow soldier to lose a leg. Defense lawyers said evidence presented in the hearing about Sergeant Bales’s use of alcohol, steroids and sleeping aids complicated the picture of his mental state.
Bales’ rampage on the innocent Afghans, which included women and children, defies explanation and sparked such outrage within the country that combat operations were halted for weeks.
Protests prevented investigation of the crime scene for three weeks.
Staff Sgt. Bales’s wife, Kari, issued a statement Wednesday morning, saying: “All Americans, including my beloved husband, are and must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty after receiving a fair trial.”
In the meantime it was revealed last month that Afghan witnesses claimed that Staff Sergeant Bales was not alone during his shooting rampage. Special Agent Leona Mansapit of the Criminal Investigations Command told the court that a woman whose husband was killed saw at least to at least two American soldiers in her house.
Another witness claimed he heard English being spoken outside his house while the massacre took place.
Days after the massacre several sources and officials speculated that Bales was not alone during the killings, including Afghan President Hamid Karzai.