US soldier sentenced for murder of Afghanistan civilians

[JURIST] A soldier with the US Army [official website] was sentenced on Friday for his role in murdering an unarmed teenage Afghan civilian. Private Andrew Holmes was sentenced to seven years in prison [AFP report] as part of a plea deal that he agreed to on Thursday. Holmes pleaded guilty [JURIST report] 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 US 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, Specialist Jeremy Morlock [JURIST news archive], ordered soldiers to fire at villagers. Morlock pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in 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 [JURIST report], 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 [JURIST report] 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 [JURIST report].

 

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