|(Kandahar slaughter) Afghan says will not forget six of seven children blown away by American Bales
An Afghan man who lost six of his seven children testified Wednesday at the sentencing hearing of the American 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, AP reports.
Haji Mohammad Wazir was one of nine villagers who traveled from Afghanistan to Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle, Washington to testify against Bales, who, in a deal to avoid the death penalty, pleaded guilty in June to slaughtering 16 Afghan civilians in March 2012. The 39-year-old soldier from Ohio faces life in prison or without the possibility of release.
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 bloodbath.
“If someone loses one child, you can imagine how devastated their life would be,'' said Wazir, who received US$550,000 in condolence payments from the US government, out of US$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.
Bales' attorneys didn't cross-examine any of the Afghan witnesses.
The first witness for the defense, Bales' brother, portrayed him much differently.
“There's no better father that I've seen,'' William Bales said of his younger brother, ``If you brought the kids in here today, they'd run right to him.''
William Bales repeatedly referred to his sibling _ once the captain of his high school football team and class president in Norwood, Ohio, where they grew up _ as “my baby brother'' and ``Bobby.''
He described how as a teenager his brother cared for a developmentally disabled neighborhood boy, assisting him with basic life functions. The boy's father also testified how helpful Bales was.
“I don't know too many 16-, 17-year-old boys who could do that,'' William Bales said.
Two military doctors testified Wednesday, describing the treatment of Bales' victims, including a young girl who had been shot in the head and spent three months undergoing surgeries and rehabilitation at a naval hospital in San Diego, relearning how to walk.
Bales, a father of two, was serving his fourth combat deployment when he left the outpost at Camp Belambay in the pre-dawn darkness. He first attacked one village, returning to Belambay only when he realized he was low on ammunition, said prosecutor Lt Col. Jay Morse.
Bales then left to attack another village.
The massacre prompted such angry protests that the US temporarily halted combat operations, and it was three weeks before army investigators could reach the crime scene.
A former brigade commander in Afghanistan, Col. Todd Wood, told the jury about arriving at Belambay the morning of the attack to find an angry crowd outside, with four makeshift trucks carrying 13 of the bodies.
Halting combat operations in the area allowed Taliban personnel to openly carry weapons and lay roadside bombs, Wood said.