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

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor 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.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More