Soldier to be tried for attack on troops

Friday, March 5, 2004

FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- An Army sergeant charged in a grenade attack that killed two officers at a Kuwaiti base will be tried at a court-martial this summer, a military official said Thursday. Sgt. Hasan Akbar, 32, faces two counts of premeditated murder and three counts of attempted premeditated murder from the attack on 101st Airborne Division soldiers on March 23, 2003, during the early days of the Iraq war.

Akbar is being held at a military prison at Fort Knox, Ky. , where an arraignment is to be held next week, said Lt. Col. Jon Guden, a lawyer with the 18th Airborne Corps, which oversees the 101st division.

No specific date was set for the court-martial. If convicted, Akbar could receive the death penalty, life in prison without parole or life with parole.

Prosecutors have alleged that Akbar stole seven grenades from a Humvee he was guarding, then walked to the brigade operations area an hour later to attack the officers. An attorney for Akbar said last year that no eyewitnesses placed the soldier at the scene, and that other soldiers were too quick to assume that he committed the crime because he is Muslim.

Killed at Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait were Army Capt. Christopher Scott Seifert, 27, of Easton, Pa., and Air Force Maj. Gregory Stone, 40, of Boise, Idaho. Fourteen others were injured.

Akbar, who is represented by two military attorneys and one civilian lawyer, is allowed to receive a jury trial by at least 12 soldiers, with at least four of them enlisted.

Any death sentence would be reviewed by the commander of the 18th Airborne Corps, an Army appeals court, a general military appeals court and, ultimately, the president before being carried out, said Fort Bragg spokesman Lt. Col. Billy Buckner.

It is the first time since the Vietnam War that a U.S. Army soldier has been prosecuted for the murder or attempted murder of another soldier during wartime, the Army has said.

The last death sentence handed down by the Army was in 1996 for Sgt. William Kreutzer, who killed one person and injured others when he fired as soldiers exercised on a field at Fort Bragg.

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