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US Military Court to Decide on Afghan War Crimes Case

In this courtroom sketch, US Army Cpl. Jeremy Morlock of Alaska, on the left, listens during military trial accusing him of participating in the killings of Afghan civilians, 27 Sept 2010.

U.S. military prosecutors say evidence shows a U.S. soldier should be court-martialed for war crimes in Afghanistan, while defense attorneys argue the soldier acted out of fear of his commanding officer.

A tribunal at a military base in Washington state heard testimony Monday in the case of 22-year-old Army Specialist Jeremy Morlock. He is the first of five U.S. soldiers accused of crimes that include killing Afghan civilians for sport and keeping body parts as trophies.

Prosecutors presented testimony Monday which they say shows Morlock willingly participated in the killing of three civilians in Afghanistan earlier this year. But lawyers for Morlock say the soldier's sergeant, Calvin Gibbs, carried out the killings and threatened members of their unit for refusing to participate and keep the crimes quiet.

A military judge is expected to decide during the next few weeks if there is enough evidence to court-martial Morlock.

If court-martialed and convicted, Morlock, could be sentenced to death.

The soldiers are part of the 2nd Infantry Division's Stryker Brigade stationed in Afghanistan's Kandahar province. Another seven soldiers in the same unit are accused of various crimes related to the case, including conspiracy to cover up the slayings and the use of illegal drugs.

U.S. Army officials have condemned the murders, saying they undermine military efforts in Afghanistan.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.