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Nation/World

August 21, 2013

Afghan massacre victim takes stand, curses gunman

NORMAN — JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Washington — An Afghan farmer shot during a massacre in Kandahar Province last year took the witness stand Tuesday against the U.S. soldier who attacked his village, cursing him before breaking down and pleading with the prosecutor not to ask him any more questions.

Haji Mohammad Naim appeared Tuesday in the courtroom at Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle, where a sentencing hearing began for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales in the slayings of 16 civilians killed during pre-dawn raids on two villages on March 11, 2012.

The hearing afforded some victims and relatives their first chance to confront Bales face-to-face.

With a thick gray beard, a turban and traditional Afghan dress, Haji Mohammad Naim testified in his native Pashto through an interpreter, speaking loudly and quickly and frequently waving a finger in the air. He pointed to where he was shot in the cheek and neck.

“This bastard stood right in front of me!” he said. “I wanted to ask him, ‘What did I do? What have I done to you?’... And he shot me!”

Bales pleaded guilty in June to avoid the death penalty. Now the six jurors must decide whether he is sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole or without it.

Naim, who is about 60 years old, said he has suffered from numbness in his hand and a stutter since the shooting. He became emotional, often speaking over the interpreter, as prosecutor Lt. Col. Jay Morse asked what it was like to have someone come into his home uninvited. He eventually stood up and said he’d had enough: “Don’t ask me any more questions!”

The prosecutor asked him for one more favor: to sit down and see whether the defense attorneys had any questions for him. He complied, but Bales’ lawyers said they didn’t need to ask him anything.

Naim’s two sons, Sadiquallah, who is about 13, and the older Faizullah, also testified.

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