News / USA

Afghan Massacre Suspect to be Arraigned

Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales (US Defense Department photo)Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales (US Defense Department photo)
x
Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales (US Defense Department photo)
Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales (US Defense Department photo)
Luis Ramirez
U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians last year, is to be arraigned in a military court in the U.S. state of Washington on Thursday. If he is found guilty, Bales could be sentenced to death.

Staff Sergeant Bales is accused of leaving his camp in Kandahar province in the predawn hours, going into two Afghan villages and opening fire at people in their homes. The victims included nine children in a case that is widely seen as one of the worst war crimes allegedly involving U.S. troops in the Afghanistan conflict. Six people were wounded in the assault.

The Army is pushing for a death sentence.

At the arraignment Thursday, charges will be read to Bales that include 16 counts of murder and six counts of attempted murder.  

The arraignment is taking place at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in the U.S. state of Washington, where Bales has been held since the Army flew him out of Afghanistan following the killings.

Larry Korb, a defense analyst at the Center for American Progress, a research group in Washington, says military prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Bales because of the horrific nature of the charges, but he says political considerations are a factor.

“The Afghan government is watching this very closely.  In fact, they wanted to try him.  So I think they’re trying to send the signal that even in American courts he’s going to get the severest penalty,” Korb said.

The U.S. military last executed a service member back in 1961.

Bales’ arraignment comes as the United States and the Afghan government negotiate a security agreement for when U.S. troops hand over security responsibility to Afghan security forces by the end of next year.  Most of the 66,000 troops now in Afghanistan are expected to withdraw by that time, but U.S. officials are considering leaving a residual force to provide logistical support to the Afghans.
 
One of the issues in the negotiations is whether Afghanistan will agree to provide legal immunity to U.S. troops who remain.

U.S. officials say the negotiations have no bearing on Bales’ case, which they say will be tried on its own merits.

There are questions about Bales’ state of mind at the time of the killings.

He had suffered a concussion and was dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that went undiagnosed.  One of his lawyers, John Henry Browne, told reporters last year the 39-year-old staff sergeant suffered emotional stress following multiple deployments that included three tours in Iraq.  

“He saw people killed standing literally right next to him and there was an incident right before these allegations when one of his fellow soldiers was mortally wounded,” Browne said.

Prosecutors say Bales’ statements after the killings show he had a clear memory of what he allegedly did and say he was conscious of having committed wrongdoing.

It was not clear whether Bales’ lawyers would enter a plea at his arraignment Thursday.

The case is still in the early stages, and a date has yet to be set for the court-martial to begin.

You May Like

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

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

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
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 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 US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
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.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

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