Children describe massacre
Stories of the massacre came, one by one, over a live video link from Afghanistan into a military courtroom outside Seattle: torched bodies, a son finding his wounded father, boys cowering behind a curtain while others screamed "We are children! We are children!"
As the Afghans recounted the horror that left 16 dead in the darkness early on March 11, the U.S. soldier accused of carrying out the rampage sat quietly in the courtroom.
At one point, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales moved closer to a large monitor showing the testimony. At other times, he watched as it played on a laptop screen in front of him. Either way, he gave no discernible reaction to the stories he heard.
Speaking through an interpreter, one Afghan closed his remarks with the words: "My request is to get justice."
The hearing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord is meant to help determine whether Bales, 39, will face a court-martial in the deaths of the seven adults and nine children. He could face the death penalty if he is convicted.
Bales, an Ohio native and father of two from Lake Tapps, Washington, has not entered a plea and was not expected to testify. His attorneys have not discussed the evidence, but say he has post-traumatic stress disorder and suffered a concussive head injury while serving in Iraq.
The hearing, which began last Monday, was held overnight Friday to accommodate the Afghan witnesses.
They recounted the villagers who lived in the attacked compounds and listed the names of those killed, to provide a record of the lives lost. The bodies were buried quickly under Islamic custom, and no forensic evidence was available to prove the number of victims.
The youngest witness was Sadiquallah, a slight boy of about 13 or 14 whose head rose just above the back of the seat he was sitting in. With his ears sticking out from beneath a white cap, he described being awakened by a neighbour screaming that an American had "killed our men."
Prosecutors say Bales broke his shooting rampage into two episodes, attacking one village, returning to the base and then departing again to raid another.
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