Conflict & Justice

Afghan village massacre survivors confront Robert Bales in courtroom


A man identified as Robert Bales appears in this Defense Department photograph published in High Desert Warrior, a publication at the National Training Center and Fort Irwin in California.

Robert Bales, the American soldier who admitted killing 16 Afghan villagers last March, faced two more massacre survivors during a sentencing hearing near Seattle on Wednesday.

Mullah Khamal Adin and Haji Mohammad Wazir took the stand at Joint Forces Base Lewis-McChord, telling a six-person tribunal about their lives since the killings, KING 5 TV in Seattle reported.

“I feel like it’s happening right now,” Wazir said through an interpreter.

“My life has never been the same,” he added, saying his “happy family” and “happy life” were destroyed that night.

According to KING 5, Wazir lost 11 relatives: his wife, mother, two brothers, a nephew and six of his seven children. As part of the US government restitution deal, Wazir received $550,000 of $980,000 paid to victims' families.

He was in another village with a young son when the massacre happened.

It was Adin, Wazir's cousin, who found bodies strewn throughout a home after the attack, some of them lit ablaze with fuel from a kerosene lamp.

"It was such a devastating incident that I don't think that I will ever forget it," he said, according to Reuters.

Bales admitted killing the villagers during his trial in June.

More from GlobalPost: The lessons of Sgt. Robert Bales

He had served four tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan when, one night in March, he slipped past guards at his Afghan base – twice – and carried out the attacks, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Prosecutors also said he was drinking and taking illegal drugs at the time; Bales said he suffered previous injuries while on duty and was traumatized by a colleague losing a leg in a roadside bomb explosion.

He had told fellow soldiers about personal and financial stress (he paid $1.5 million in a fraud lawsuit before joining up), and he was frustrated his career had apparently stalled, the LA Times reported.

Wazir wanted more time in the court, but military rules only allow him to answer questions, the Associated Press said.

Nine villagers were flown 7,000 miles from Afghanistan to give testimony, which began on Tuesday.

Bales cut a deal to plead guilty, and prosecutors agreed they wouldn't pursue a death penalty. The panel will decide is he’s eligible for parole after 20 years.

The 39-year-old Ohio native has two children.

His defense team also called witnesses, including Bales's older brother, William.

The elder Bales described his "baby brother" as a devoted father who enlisted after the Sept. 11 attacks, the AP said.

More from GlobalPost: Robert Bales pleads guilty to Afghan village massacre to avoid death penalty