Afghan father testifies against US soldier
Aug 21, 2013 / 6:53 pm
An Afghan man who lost six of his seven children testified Wednesday at the sentencing hearing of the U.S. soldier who slaughtered them, telling jurors that his surviving 5-year-old son remembers all of his lost siblings and misses them. The soldier's brother appealed for leniency, portraying Staff Sgt. Robert Bales as a patriotic American and an indulgent father.
Haji Mohammad Wazir was one of nine villagers who travelled from Afghanistan to the U.S. to testify against Bales, who, in a deal to avoid the death penalty, pleaded guilty in June to killing 16 Afghan civilians in March 2012. The 39-year-old soldier faces life in prison or without the possibility of release.
Defence attorneys are hoping to convince jurors that Bales simply snapped after four combat deployments and deserves leniency. His brother, William Bales, told the jury that the soldier was a loving father who let his son put salad dressing on chocolate chip pancakes.
Wazir, who also lost his mother and his wife, told the six-member jury that the attacks destroyed what had been a happy life. He was in another village with his youngest son, now 5-year-old Habib Shah, during the rampage.
"If someone loses one child, you can imagine how devastated their life would be," said Wazir, who received $550,000 in condolence payments from the U.S. government, out of $980,000 paid in all. His son, now 5, "misses everyone. He hasn't forgotten any of them."
"I've gone through very hard times," he added. "If anybody speaks to me about the incident ... I feel the same, like it's happening right now."
Wazir and a cousin, Khamal Adin, didn't get to say everything they wanted to in court. Each asked for permission to speak after the prosecutors' questions were finished, but the judge said it wasn't allowed.
On Tuesday, a farmer who was shot in the neck cursed Bales before pleading with the prosecutor to ask him no more questions.
"This bastard stood right in front of me!" the farmer, Haji Mohammad Naim, testified, through an interpreter. "I wanted to ask him, 'What did I do? What have I done to you?' ... and he shot me!"
Browne said Wednesday that on his way out of the courtroom, Naim used an even angrier quote directed at Bales about exacting revenge upon his mother.
Bales' attorneys, who have said the soldier suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, didn't cross-examine any of the Afghan witnesses.
One of Bale's lawyers, John Henry Browne, said after court Wednesday that his client will speak to the jury at the end of the case, and he will offer an apology for his crimes.
At the time of the killings, Bales had been under heavy personal, professional and financial stress, Morse said. He had complained to other soldiers that his wife was fat and unattractive and said he'd divorce her except that her father had money. He had stopped paying the mortgage on one of his houses and he was upset that he had not been promoted.
During his plea hearing in June, Bales couldn't explain to a judge why he committed the killings. "There's not a good reason in this world for why I did the horrible things I did," he said.
If he is sentenced to life with the possibility of parole, Bales would be eligible in 20 years, but there's no guarantee he would receive it. He will receive life with parole unless at least five of the six jurors say otherwise.
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