US soldier sentenced to life in prison without release for killing 16 Afghans
One day after Staff Sgt. Robert Bales apologized in court for his 2012 rampage, a jury said on Friday that he has to spend the rest of his life behind bars without the option of ever petitioning for his release.
Bales was the only soldier involved in storming two small Afghan villages before dawn on the morning of March 11, 2012. He pleaded guilty to the murders earlier this year in exchange for a deal that allowed him to avoid the death penalty for his crimes. In turn, the jury was asked to determine whether Bales should be sentenced to life in prison with or without the possibility of an eventual release for good behavior. On Friday, the jury decided on the latter.
"What I did is an act of cowardice," Bales said at his court-martial on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington on Thursday. "I'm a mass of fear and bullshit and bravado. I'm truly, truly sorry to those people whose families got taken away".
Earlier in the proceedings, Army prosecutors called on witnesses to testify against Bales, including family members of those killed during the rampage.
"What did I do wrong against Sgt. Bales that he shot my father?" a 5-year-old child identified as Kahn told the court, the LA Times reported.
“There's not a good reason in this world for why I did the horrible things I did,” Bales said when he entered his guilty plea this past June.
Sentencing in the Bales case was announced moments after jurors on a court-martial in Texas convicted Army Maj. Nidal Hasan on 16 counts of murder and 32 counts of attempted murder for a 2009 massacre at the Fort Hood military base. Following the penalty phase of the proceedings, Hasan could be sentenced to death for his crimes.
A military judge asked a six-member sentencing jury on Friday to decide whether a US soldier who pleaded guilty to murdering 16 unarmed Afghan civilians in a pre-dawn rampage last year should ever be eligible for parole.
Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, a veteran of four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, has admitted to slaughtering the villagers, mostly women and children, in attacks on their family compounds in Kandahar province in March 2012.
Voice of Russia, RT, Reuters