Sgt. Bales Sentenced To Life In Prison For Afghan Murders

Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales pleaded guilty to killing 16 Afghan civilians in order to avoid the death penalty. On Friday, a military jury sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Now to the other major court martial we've been following, that of Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales. He pleaded guilty to killing 16 civilians, mostly women and children, during a nighttime massacre in Afghanistan. That plea allowed him to avoid the death penalty. Today, a military jury sentenced Bales to life in prison without the possibility of parole. But as NPR's Martin Kaste reports, that sentence was not harsh enough for relatives of Bales' Afghan victims.

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: Outside the court building today, it was an extraordinary scene: Nine Afghan men and boys, survivors and relatives of the murder victims, who'd been flown to the U.S. by the Army to give testimony. Dressed in traditional kameezes and vests, they lined up for a scrum of reporters pointing mics and cameras and iPhones. And they had a message: They're not satisfied.

This man is Mohammad Haji Naim(ph). Speaking through interpreter, he talked about what it was like for him to sit in the courtroom and watch the reaction of Sergeant Bales' family.

MOHAMMAD HAJI NAIM: (Through translator) I saw his mother trying to cry, but at least she could go and visit him. What about us? Our family members are actually six deep under, and there's no way that we could go and even visit them at all. They're gone.

KASTE: And then Haji Mohammad Wazir(ph) stepped up. He is the father who lost six of his seven children in Bales' rampage.

HAJI MOHAMMAD WAZIR: (Through translator) This murderer jumped into my house in the middle of the night, killed 11 members of my family and then burned them. We were brought all the way here from Afghanistan to see if justice will be served, but not our way. The justice was served American way, their way. We wanted this murderer to be executed, but we didn't get our wish.

KASTE: One man says they got, quote, "5 percent" of the justice they wanted. But that was something. Right after the press conference, they drove to a mosque in nearby Takoma to give special prayers of thanksgiving for the fact that at least Sergeant Bales will never be eligible for parole. Martin Kaste, NPR News, Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

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