The U.S. soldier charged with deliberately killing 16 civilians in Afghanistan last year has pleaded guilty in order to avoid the death penalty.
At a hearing in a military courtroom in the northwestern U.S. state of Washington on Wednesday, Army Sergeant Robert Bales entered his plea to 16 counts of premeditated murder. A short while later, a military judge accepted that plea agreement.
Bales' sentencing hearing, expected in August, will determine if he ever will be eligible for parole.
Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales (3rd L)is seen in a courtroom sketch at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Jan. 17, 2013.
The former staff sergeant was charged in March 2012 with attacks on two villages near a remote military base in southern Afghanistan. Most of the victims were women and children, and investigators said some of the bodies were burned.
Investigators said the assault was revenge for a bombing that seriously wounded another soldier.
Defense lawyers said Bales was on his fourth combat tour in Afghanistan and was suffering post-traumatic stress and the effects of a concussion at the time of the killings.