US soldier jailed for Afghan murders

originally by: The Irish Times
published: 11th November 2011

A US army sergeant was convicted by court-martial yesterday of murdering unarmed civilians and cutting fingers from their corpses as ringleader of a rogue platoon in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. The guilty verdict on all counts, returned after five hours of deliberations, carried an automatic life prison sentence, but the five-member jury panel then decided that Staff Sgt Calvin Gibbs (26) would be eligible for parole in eight-and-a-half years.

Pentagon officials have said the misconduct exposed by the case, which evolved from an inquiry of drug abuse within Gibbs’ Stryker Brigade infantry unit, damaged the image of the United States around the globe.

Photographs entered as evidence in the case showed Gibbs and other soldiers casually posing with bloodied Afghan corpses, drawing comparisons with the inflammatory Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq in 2004.

The decisions by the jury panel – two enlisted personnel and three officers followed a week-and-a-half of testimony at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma.

Gibbs, who has denied committing murder, declined to speak before sentencing.

His civilian lawyer, Phillip Stackhouse, asked the panel for leniency in its parole decision, saying Gibbs had ample time for reflection during his pretrial confinement and “is not the same person he was when he went to Afghanistan.” He added his client wished for the chance to be reunited with his young son at some point in the future.

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