Friday, April 29, 2005

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) — A military jury has sentenced Sgt. Hasan Akbar to death for the 2003 murders of two officers in a grenade and rifle attack at a military camp in Kuwait.

Akbar, who gave a brief, barely audible apology hours earlier, stood at attention yesterday between his lawyers as the verdict was delivered. He showed no emotion.

He could have been sentenced to life in prison with or without parole for the attack, which also wounded 14 fellow members of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division at Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait.

The 15-person military jury, which last week took just 21/2 hours to convict Akbar of premeditated murder and attempted premeditated murder, deliberated for about seven hours in the sentencing phase. After jurors reached a verdict, they voted on whether to reconsider the decision after one juror asked that they do so.

The sentence of death by injection will be reviewed by a commanding officer and automatically appealed.

“I want to apologize for the attack that occurred. I felt that my life was in jeopardy, and I had no other options. I also want to ask you for forgiveness,” Akbar told the jury before it deliberated in the sentencing phase.

Akbar, 34, spoke for less than a minute, delivering an unsworn statement that could not be cross-examined. He spoke in such a low voice that even prosecutors sitting nearby had trouble hearing.

Although the defense contended that Akbar was too mentally ill to plan the attack, his lawyers have never disputed that he threw grenades into troop tents and then fired on soldiers in the ensuing chaos. Army Capt. Chris Seifert, 27, and Air Force Maj. Gregory Stone, 40, were killed.

Prosecutors said Akbar launched the attack at his camp — days before the soldiers were to move into Iraq — because he was concerned about U.S. troops killing fellow Muslims in the Iraq war.

“He is a hate-filled, ideologically driven murderer,” chief prosecutor Lt. Col. Michael Mulligan said.

Akbar is the first American since the Vietnam era to be prosecuted on charges of murdering a fellow serviceman during wartime.

Akbar’s father, John Akbar, has said his son complained in vain to his superiors about religious and racial harassment before the attack. The defense never introduced any witnesses to testify about any such harassment.

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