Appeal scheduled for US soldier convicted in 2003 grenade attack that killed 2 service members

Brett Barrouquere / The Associated Press
August 27, 2014 06:52 AM

FILE - In this Monday, April 25, 2005, file photo, Sgt. Hasan Akbar is led from the Staff Judge Advocate Building at Fort Bragg, N.C., during the sentencing phase of his court-martial. Akbar, who was sentenced to death for killing two fellow service members and wounding 14 others in a grenade attack in Kuwait, will have an appeal in military court, on Nov. 18, in Washington. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A military appeal hearing was set Thursday for a U.S. soldier sentenced to death for killing two fellow service members and wounding 14 others in a grenade attack in Kuwait nearly 10 years ago.

The hearing for 43-year-old Army Sgt. Hasan K. Akbar is scheduled for Nov. 18 in Washington, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces said on its website. Akbar was sentenced to death in 2005 by a military jury.

He was convicted of premeditated murder and attempted premeditated murder in connection with an attack on the 101st Airborne Division at Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait during the early days of the Iraq war. Prosecutors say he threw four hand grenades into tents as members of his division slept, then fired his rifle at soldiers in the ensuing chaos on March 23, 2003.

Air Force Maj. Gregory L. Stone was killed by a grenade. Army Capt. Christopher S. Seifert was fatally shot in the back. Fourteen soldiers were wounded, mostly from grenade shrapnel.

His appeal challenges the trial counsel's. Maj. Jacob Bashore, one of Akbar's military defence attorneys, said in a brief that the attorneys who defended Akbar during his trial should not have shown Akbar's diary to the jury. The diary, which contained details of a conversion to radical Islam and expressed anti-government views, hurt Akbar's case, Bashore said.

In one diary entry dated Feb. 23, 2002, Akbar wrote that he believed staying in the Army would eventually lead him to prison.

"I had a premonition that if I re-enlisted I would find myself in jail. That is probably true because I already want to kill several of them," Akbar wrote of his fellow soldiers.

Trial lawyers also failed to comprehensively investigate Akbar's background and didn't turn up allegations that Akbar and his siblings were physically and sexually abused as children, Bashore wrote.

"Thirty-eight minutes. Barely a moment to explain thirty-one years of Sgt. Akbar's life or its value," Bashore wrote. "However, that is how long the defence sentencing lasted in this capital case."

Bashore said Akbar joined the Army in 1998 after failing to find other work and struggled with memories of prior physical and sexual abuse and mental issues while serving.

"When faced with the stress of war and fighting other Muslims, he broke psychologically before committing violence upon his fellow soldiers," Bashore wrote.

At trial, Akbar's military defence attorneys contended that Akbar had psychiatric problems, including paranoia, irrational behaviour, insomnia, and other sleep disorders.

Prosecutors say Akbar's defence attorneys acted in his best interest to try and prevent a death sentence from being issued in one of the "most egregious offences in modern military history." The defence attorneys focused on the most viable arguments and witnesses, Maj. Kenneth Borgnino wrote.

"Every witness examined, every exhibit admitted, and every argument made during the court martial (not merely during the sentencing case), was focused on one fact: appellant was mentally ill," Borgnino wrote.

Akbar is being held in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

He is one of five former soldiers under a sentence of death and the only one convicted for a crime stemming from the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

______

Follow Associated Press reporter Brett Barrouquere on Twitter: http://twitter.com/BBarrouquereAP


© Coast Reporter
Coast Reporter

Email to a Friend

Close

QUESTION OF THE WEEK POLL

Do we do enough to encourage young people to vote?

or  view results

Popular Coast Reporter

Community Event Calendar


Find out what's happening in your community and submit your own local events.