US soldier sentenced for murder of Afghan civilians

A soldier with the US Army was sentenced on Sept. 23 for his role in murdering an unarmed teenage Afghan civilian. Pvt. Andrew Holmes was sentenced to seven years in prison as part of a plea deal that he agreed to the day before. Holmes pleaded guilty to shooting the civilian, but pleaded not guilty to previous charges of premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Holmes also pleaded guilty to one count each of possessing a finger bone of the victim and using marijuana. As part of the deal, Holmes will receive 499 days of time served and will be dishonorably discharged from the Army. Holmes is the third soldier to strike a plea deal of the five charged with murder as part of a plot contrived with fellow soldiers to kill Afghan civilians, which took place between January and May of last year in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. Holmes has alleged that his co-defendant, Spc. Jeremy Morlock, ordered soldiers to fire at villagers. Morlock pleaded guilty n March to three counts of murder, as well as one count each of assault, conspiracy, obstructing justice and illegal drug use in exchange for a maximum sentence of 24 years in prison.

Investigations into the 5th Stryker Brigade have led to additional charges for lesser crimes against seven other soldiers. In May, US Army prosecutors charged Staff Sgt. David Bram with solicitation to commit premeditated murder, failure to report crimes including murder, planting evidence near the body of an Afghan national, unlawfully engaging in murder scenario conversations with subordinates and aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon in related to the January 2010 murder plot. Staff Sgt. Robert Stevens pleaded guilty in December to shooting two unarmed Afghan farmers following a plea agreement that will allow him to remain in the military after serving a nine-month sentence and testifying against other soldiers accused of terrifying civilians. A military investigation revealed that soldiers from the brigade had been plotting since 2009 to kill unarmed Afghans and stage them to look like casualties of combat. The probe into 12 soldiers regarding the civilian deaths began in May 2010.

From Jurist, Sept. 24. Used with permission.

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  1. US soldier convicted of murdering Afghan civilians
    A US military court on Nov. 10 convicted an army squad commander of three counts of premeditated murder for leading a “kill team” in Afghanistan that targeted unarmed civilians and collected body parts as war trophies. While three of the four defendants pleaded guilty and received reduced sentences, Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, 26, was given a life sentence for 15 convictions including murder, assault and conspiracy connected to the killing of three men not long after he took over the Fifth Brigade of the US Army Second Division in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province in November 2009. Gibbs admitted to cutting and keeping fingers from the corpses as trophies, but claimed that he was merely returning enemy fire and was not motivated to kill. Prosecutors, however, relied on Gibbs’ own likening of collecting amputated body parts to the antlers of a deer to characterize the platoon leader as a hunter who killed Afghans “for sport.” Two co-defendants testified against their former leader, and told the court that Gibbs not only collected fingers and teeth from those he called “savages,” but that he also took pictures next to the victims before leaving weapons around their bodies. While Gibbs has been given a life sentence, the court also granted the possibility of parole after less than 10 years. (Jurist, Nov. 11)