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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » February 20, 2008
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Remand Extended for Accused Troops
February 20, 2008   
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The Military District Court in Warsaw decided Feb. 12 that all seven soldiers who are suspects in connection with the killing of civilians in the Afghan village of Nangar Khel will stay in remand for a further three months. "The large probability that they are guilty as charged, fears of chicanery, the long sentence that could be involved and fears that one of the soldiers could flee the country," were the reasons officially given for the extension of custody after a court hearing that was closed to the media.

The suspects are soldiers from the 18th Bielsko Assault Battalion named only as Capt. Olgierd C., Second Lt. Łukasz B., Ensign Andrzej O., Platoon Sgt. Tomasz B. and privates first class Damian L., Robert B. and Jacek J. Six of the men have been accused of killing civilians and the seventh of attacking an undefended civilian target. All were arrested on Nov. 13, 2007.

The court's ruling is not yet binding and can be appealed to the Military Chamber of the Supreme Court. The suspects' defense attorneys have said they would appeal. Grzegorz Schetyna, deputy prime minister and interior minister, appealed to Justice Minister Zbigniew Ćwiąkalski to do "everything to enable the arrested soldiers to prove their innocence."

Military prosecutors dealing with the case recently questioned ex-Defense Minister Aleksander Szczygło. Several dozen people have been questioned so far, including the commander of the first shift of the Polish Military Contingent in Afghanistan, Gen. Marek Tomaszycki and land forces commander Gen. Waldemar Skrzypczak. No date has been set yet for questioning Col. Martin Schweitzer, the U.S. commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team in Afghanistan. He told Defense Minister Bogdan Klich during the latter's visit to the Sharana base in eastern Afghanistan that the Polish soldiers' operation in Nangar Khel was "a mistake but not a criminal action."

The village of Nangar Khel in southeastern Afghanistan came under fire on Aug. 16, 2007. Several civilians were killed, including women and children. The Polish authorities have not given out details of what they believe happened that day as the information is classified. According to media reports, the testimony of the soldiers and the commander of the nearby Wazi Khwa base are contradictory, with both blaming each other. One version says the soldiers received information that the villagers were collaborating with the Taliban; another version alleges that the mortar used and the ammunition fired at the village were faulty.
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