News / USA

US Soldier Given Life Without Parole for Afghan Killings

A U.S. soldier looks on as Afghan villagers, some of whom testified earlier in the week, speak through an interpreter with reporters, following a sentencing hearing for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Aug. 23, 2013.
A U.S. soldier looks on as Afghan villagers, some of whom testified earlier in the week, speak through an interpreter with reporters, following a sentencing hearing for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Aug. 23, 2013.
Mike O'Sullivan
An American soldier convicted of killing 16 civilians in Afghanistan has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Staff Sergeant Robert Bales had admitted to the killings in a plea bargain that spared him the death penalty.

Bales listened to testimony this week from some of the Afghan survivors and family members of victims, as military prosecutors described the cold-blooded killings in two Afghan villages in March, 2012. Most of his victims were women and children, including 11 members of one family. Haji Muhammad Wazir lost six of his seven children and his wife and mother. He and eight other men and boys were flown to
Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State for the sentencing hearing.

Prosecutors said that Bales, armed with an assault rifle and pistol, acted alone and that the murders were premeditated. Defense lawyers have said Bales suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome from the pressures of four deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that he was dependent on alcohol and drugs. His attorneys did not call on mental health experts, however, as they had planned, and civilian lawyer John Henry Browne told reporters that a battle of experts would not help their client’s case.

Thursday, Bales apologized for the killings to the families of the victims and his fellow soldiers, and he called the murders an act of cowardice. It was his first public apology. Army officials say the Afghans who testified at the hearing declined to attend that day. A jury of six military service members, who were empaneled this week to determine the sentence, deliberated for less than two hours before announcing a decision, life in prison without parole.
 
Bales, who is a Washington State resident, is 40 years old and the father of two children. Friends and former associates who appeared as character witnesses said they were stunned to learn of the charges.

Many Afghans have expressed anger that Bales was spared the death penalty and that he was tried in the United States and not Afghanistan. He was prosecuted under the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice.

You May Like

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

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