News / USA

Testimony Begins in Afghan Atrocities Trial

Artist's sketch of U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs in court (File)
Artist's sketch of U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs in court (File)

An American soldier is on trial for the murders of unarmed non-combatants in Afghanistan in what is alleged to have been the worst known case of misconduct by U.S.troops during the Afghan conflict.

The court martial session heard accounts of unarmed Afghan farmers being shot in staged combat scenes, their corpses mutilated, fingers cut off and passed around as trophies.

The grisly testimony came Monday in graphic photos showing victims' bodies and, in the words of chief witness Jeremy Morlock - once the right hand of platoon leader Calvin Gibbs. Morlock pleaded guilty to murder in March and is serving a life sentence.

Gibbs is one of 12 platoon members charged.  Prosecutors say he was the main conspirator of the killings in Kandahar province last year.

Morlock says Gibbs viewed Afghan people with disdain, referring to them as savages.

Monday's testimony here included accounts of rampant narcotics use in the platoon and of failing morale.  Morlock said the troops were eager to get into the firefights for which they had been trained. He said that months into their Afghan deployment, they had engaged only in what Morlock described as meet-and-greets and handshaking - and he said frustration was building.

It was then that Morlock says Gibbs handed him a grenade and told him to go out make the platoon's first kill.  Two others followed in the subsequent months.  In Monday's testimony, there were details of nearly 100 conversations that Gibbs and others in the platoon had in planning how to stage the killings.

In a community with strong ties to the military, the court-martial touches many.

George Harbin, a war veteran, spoke while attending a dinner meeting of a local veterans' organization near the base. He lost two stepsons in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and believes Gibbs' alleged misconduct diminishes the sacrifices made by thousands of American soldiers.

“There's no excuse. A staff sergeant should have at least two years of college. If you're going to have two years' college, you're going to have the mentality and IQ to know the difference between right and wrong," said Harbin. "A person running across in front of your weapon without a weapon is not fair game. We're not Nazis and we're not Fascists."

Gibbs has pleaded not guilty on all of the charges.  In opening statements Monday, his attorney, Phil Stackhouse, said the killings happened in legitimate combat. He said Gibbs cut a finger off the Afghan's corpse because he was angry about the man's alleged attempts to kill him.  He had no explanation for why Gibbs kept the finger.

A total of 28 witnesses will take the stand before a panel of five soldiers decides whether Gibbs is guilty of the 16 charges against him that include premeditated murder and conspiracy.

For the 26-year-old soldier, a conviction could mean life in prison without parole.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid