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FACTDROP: 'Thrill kill' US soldier guilty of Afghan deaths
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11/11/2011

'Thrill kill' US soldier guilty of Afghan deaths


Πηγή: ABCnews
By AFP
Nov 11 2011

The ringleader of a rogue US army unit responsible for "thrill kills" of Afghan civilians has been sentenced to life behind bars.


But a five-person military panel said Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs - who was found guilty at the end of a week-long court martial - would be eligible for parole after serving at least 10 years.

Gibbs was found guilty of 15 counts, including three of premeditated murder for his role in three so-called "thrill kills" in southern Afghanistan between January and May last year.

The prosecution portrayed Gibbs as the ringleader of the rogue unit, which also harvested body parts from the victims as grisly war trophies.

Three members of the unit have already pleaded guilty in a scandal that has threatened embarrassment for the US military on the scale of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse in Iraq disclosed in 2004.

Each of the convictions for murder carried a minimum sentence of life in prison, but his defence team successfully managed to avoid life without the possibility of parole.

The prosecution pushed for life without parole in its final statement before sentencing by repeating a word Gibbs had used to describe the Afghan civilians.

"There is the savage," said Major Dre LeBlanc, pointing at Gibbs. "Sergeant Gibbs is the savage."

In closing arguments, prosecutor Major Robert Stelle dismissed Gibbs's claims that he was responding to legitimate attack when the team killed the Afghans, before removing body parts and taking photos with the corpses.

"This is a case about betrayal, the ultimate betrayal. (Gibbs) betrayed his folk, he betrayed his unit, and with the flag of his nation emblazoned across his chest, thousand of miles from home, he betrayed his nation," he said.

Gibbs was accused of setting up the killings, planting weapons on the dead civilians' bodies to make it look like they were fighters and then removing fingers and teeth to show off to colleagues.

His court-martial started last week, and in an unexpected appearance last Friday he claimed his unit was engaged in genuine combat - while admitting that he took fingers and teeth from the corpses.

"In my mind, it was like keeping the antlers off a deer you'd shoot... You have to come to terms with the things you're doing," he said.


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