Military prosecutors will seek the death penalty for a US soldier accused of killing 16 villagers in southern Afghanistan in March, an army spokesman said Wednesday.
Staff Sergeant Robert Bales is to face a full court martial authorized to sentence him to a maximum penalty of death, the military decided after preliminary hearings last month.
“This decision was made after reviewing the Article 32 report of investigation,” said a statement from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, referring to the report compiled from last year’s so-called Article 32 hearings.
“The government will seek the death penalty,” base spokesman Gary Dangerfield told AFP. No trial date has been set.
Bales faces 16 counts of murder, six of attempted murder, seven of assault, two of using drugs and one of drinking alcohol. Seventeen of the 22 victims were women or children and almost all were shot in the head.
The 39-year-old allegedly left his base in the Panjwayi district of southern Kandahar province on the night of March 11 to commit the killings, which included nine children. He allegedly set several of their bodies on fire.
Prosecutors at the Article 32 pre-trial hearing alleged that Bales left the base twice to carry out the killings, returning in between and even telling a colleague what he had done.
The week-long hearing included three evening sessions — daytime in Afghanistan — to hear testimony by video conference from Afghan victims and relatives of those who died.