The South Asia Channel

Prosecutors to seek death penalty in trial of U.S. soldier

Prosecutors to seek death penalty in trial of U.S. soldier

To trial?

A military prosecutor arguing the case against Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who is accused of murdering 16 Afghan civilians in March, said Tuesday that the evidence presented in the pre-trial hearing so clearly points to Bales’ guilt that the trial should proceed as a court-martial and the prosecution will seek the death penalty (NYT, WSJ, BBC, AP, AJE). Bales’ pre-trial hearing ended on Tuesday, and Army officials will now deliberate on whether to continue with a court-martial.

Pakistani and Afghan officials said Wednesday that Pakistan has agreed to free several Afghan Taliban prisoners who might be helpful in restarting peace talks between the insurgent group and the Afghan government (Reuters, AP, Dawn, Tel). Pakistani officials have not yet released any information on which prisoners will be released.

Afghan officials have halted all fuel deliveries to police in the southern province of Helmand, after discovering a massive fuel theft worth some $600 million (Guardian). The decision leaves police in the Taliban stronghold of Helmand without the fuel they need to do their jobs, a sign of the severity of this theft even in a country where corruption is rampant.

Bad guys

Police in the Pakistani port city of Karachi on Wednesday arrested four suspected militants who were allegedly planning a series of sectarian attacks against Shi’a Muslims during the holy month of Muharram (AFP). The arrests come after three days of violence in the city, during which around 40 people were killed.

The bloodshed continued in Karachi with at least six more people shot dead on Wednesday (Dawn, ET). And two bomb blasts in Kurram tribal agency on Wednesday wounded five civilians (Dawn).

Art smart

On Monday, Huma Mulji became the third Pakistani to win the Abraaj Capital Art Prize that has gone to five artists and curators from North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia every year since 2008 (ET). The unusual prize goes not for previous work, but for a body of work to be produced in the following year.

— Jennifer Rowland