November 13, 2012
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. — Through a video monitor in a military courtroom near Seattle, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales saw young Afghan girls smile beneath bright head coverings before they described the bloodbath he's accused of committing.
He saw boys fidget as they remembered how they hid behind curtains when a gunman killed 16 people in their village and one other.
And he saw dignified, thick-bearded men who spoke of unspeakable carnage — the piled, burned bodies of children and parents alike.
From the other side of that video link, in Afghanistan, another man saw something else — signs that justice will be done.
I saw the person who killed my brother sitting there, head down with guilt, Haji Mullah Baraan said Monday. He didn't look up toward the camera.
Baraan was one of many Afghan witnesses who testified in Bales' case by live video link over the weekend.
We got great hope from this and we are sure that we will get justice, Baraan said.
Prosecutors say Bales, 39, slipped away from his remote base at Camp Belambay to attack two villages early on March 11, killing 16 civilians, including nine children. The slayings drew such angry protests that the U.S. temporarily halted combat operations in Afghanistan, and it was three weeks before American investigators could reach the crime scenes.
Bales faces 16 counts of premeditated murder and six counts of attempted murder. The preliminary hearing, which began Nov. 5 and is scheduled to end with closing arguments today, will help determine whether he faces a court-martial. He could face the death penalty if convicted.