Jury sentences soldier to death for ’03 attack

Published Friday, April 29, 2005 BRAGG, N.C. (AP) - Hours after giving a brief, barely audible apology, a soldier was sentenced to death by a military jury for attacking comrades with a rifle and grenades early in the Iraq invasion.

Sgt. Hasan Akbar, 34, could have been sentenced yesterday to life in prison with or without parole for the March 2003 attack on members of the elite 101st Airborne Division at Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait. Two officers were killed, and 14 other soldiers were wounded.

"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 began deliberating. He spoke in such a low voice that even prosecutors sitting nearby had trouble hearing, with one lawyer even cupping his ear.

Jurors took about seven hours to reach their decision yesterday. Last week, the same 15-person military jury took just 2½ hours to convict Akbar of premeditated murder and attempted premeditated murder.

The sentence will be reviewed by a commanding officer and automatically appealed. If Akbar is executed, it would be by lethal injection.

Although the defense contends Akbar was too mentally ill to plan the attack, they have never disputed that he threw grenades into troop tents in the early-morning darkness and then fired on soldiers in the ensuing chaos.

Army Capt. Chris Seifert, 27, and Air Force Maj. Gregory Stone, 40, were killed.

Prosecutors say 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.

He added that Akbar wrote in his diary in 1997, "My life will not be complete unless America is destroyed."

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

He will be the sixth person on the military’s death row at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

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