US soldier gets life in jail for Panjwai massacre
WASHINGTON (PAN): A US soldier who massacred 16 innocent Afghans last year was sentenced on Friday to life imprisonment without parole by a military jury that announced one of the most severe punishments for a war crime in Afghanistan.
However, the victims of the American soldier, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who was responsible for one of the worst massacres in the Panjwai district of southern Kandahar province, were not satisfied with the life imprisonment handed to him.
"We wanted this murderer to be executed, but we did not get our wish," said Haji Mohammed Wazir, who lost six children, his wife and mother as a result of the killing spree.
He told reporters in Washington after the verdict: "We came all the way to the United States to get justice, but we did not get that,” he said after the six-member jury sentenced Bales to life in jail.
Bales, 40, escaped the death penalty in June by pleading guilty and was seeking a chance for parole during the sentencing hearing. During the trial, several Afghan villagers travelled from Kandahar to the Washington State to appear as witnesses.
On Thursday, the soldier tendered an apology for the killings, regretting the much-denounced shooting as "an act of cowardice". He told a military jury: "Sorry just isn't good enough, but I am sorry. What I did is an act of cowardice."
Linking the shooting rampage to his anger and fear, an emotional Bales said: "I'm a mass of fear and bullshit and bravado. I'm truly sorry to those people whose families got taken away."
A decorated veteran of four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, the 39-year-old told the jury that would determine his fate that he drank a lot and remained furious much of the time.
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