US soldier to admit Afghan killings to escape death

May 30, 2013 1:23 pm
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A villager points to a spot where a family was allegedly shot in their residence by a rogue US soldier in Panjwayi district, Kandahar province on March 11, 2012/AFP
A villager points to a spot where a family was allegedly shot in their residence by a rogue US soldier in Panjwayi district, Kandahar province on March 11, 2012/AFP

, LOS ANGELES, May 30 – A US soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers last year will plead guilty in exchange for escaping the death penalty and is sorry for what he did, his lawyers said.

Sergeant Robert Bales faces charges including 16 counts of murder, six of attempted murder and seven of assault over the massacre in southern Afghanistan in March last year.

Seventeen of the 22 victims were women or children and almost all were shot in the head. Prosecutors called in November for him to face the death penalty, setting a provisional date for court-martial in September.

His lawyer John Browne said Wednesday that on June 5, Bales will plead guilty.

“Today we announced that we reached an agreement with the military to take the death penalty off the table if he will plead” guilty, Browne said.

“And then he’ll have a sentencing trial in September to determine whether he can get life with parole or whether he will get life without parole,” Browne said in video broadcast on the BBC web site.

Asked if Bales was sorry, Browne said: “Absolutely. And I think that will become clear as the process goes forward. He’s very relieved that the death penalty is not on the table.”

The next hearing is scheduled for next Wednesday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in the northwestern US state of Washington, where Bales is being held.

It will be “more or less a guilty plea hearing,” Browne said.

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