[JURIST] A court-martial began Friday for US Army Sergeant Calvin Gibbs, 26, charged with murdering civilians in Afghanistan as part of a rogue platoon that has attacked villagers in the Kandahar province. Gibbs' trial follows an 18-month investigation into crimes committed by US military personnel as part of the war in Afghanistan. Gibbs now faces three counts of premeditated murder [Reuters report], in addition to charges for cutting off the fingers, dismantling dead bodies and assaulting a soldier for notifying superiors of drug abuse within the unit. If convicted on all charges, Gibbs could face life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors have depicted Gibbs as the instigator of the atrocities against Afghan civilians by the 5th Stryker Brigade. Seven other soldiers faced charges for lesser offenses, but most of the others have agreed to plea deals. Pentagon officials have said that exposure of this misconduct has damaged the image of the US abroad.
In September, Private Andrew Holmes, 21, pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to murdering a teenage Afghan civilian that he knew was unarmed. Holmes was the second soldier to plead guilty of five who have been 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. In May, US Army prosecutors charged a sixth soldier [JURIST report] for his involvement in a murder plot that led to the deaths of three Afghan civilians. Bram was the sixth soldier from the 5th Stryker Brigade to be charged in connection with the three Afghan deaths, which took place between January and May of last year in Afghanistan's Kandahar province.