WASHINGTON, December 19 (RIA Novosti) – The US Army said Wednesday it will seek the death penalty for one of its own soldiers accused of massacring 16 people, nine of them children, in southern Afghanistan earlier this year, US media reported.
The reports, published by numerous outlets based on an Associated Press dispatch, said the Army’s announcement followed a pretrial hearing last month for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, 39, who has been charged with a number of crimes including premeditated murder over the incident last March.
The court martial for Bales will be held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle, the reports said, adding that no date has yet been set for the military trial.
According to the AP, Bales left his base in southern Afghanistan early on March 11. He attacked people in a nearby village, returned to his base and then left again to attack another village.
The killings sparked furious protests and the United States temporarily halted combat operations in Afghanistan in the wake of the killings. It took US investigators three weeks to reach the crime scenes.
A civilian lawyer representing Bales said his client should not face the death penalty because he was on his fourth combat deployment to Afghanistan.
Prosecutors however said Bales had demonstrated “consciousness of wrong-doing.” Army investigators said he tested positive for steroids three days after the killings and other soldiers testified he had been drinking the night of the killings.