WARSAW, June 1 (Reuters) - A Polish military court cleared
seven soldiers of war crime charges on Wednesday over the
killing of civilians in Afghanistan four years ago.
While serving in the NATO mission in 2007, the soldiers
shelled the Afghan village of Nangar Khel, killing six
civilians, including women and children, and injuring two more
who later died in hospital.
The military court in Warsaw said there was not sufficient
evidence that the soldiers had committed a war crime, bringing
to an end the first such trial in Poland, which still has more
than 2,500 troops serving in Afghanistan.
"This is an unprecedented event in the history of the Polish
judiciary," said the judge, Colonel Miroslaw Jaroszewski, adding
that the accusation prepared by prosecutors was faulty.
"Lingering doubts cannot be settled to the detriment of the
accused," Jaroszewski added.
The prosecution has the right of appeal against the verdict.
The mistaken killing of civilians by foreign forces, usually
during air strikes or night-time raids, is a major source of
friction between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Western
backers, and has complicated efforts to win support from
Poland's defence and foreing ministers recently appealed
publicly for a lenient ruling, saying the Nangar Khel killings
were a tragic accident, not a deliberate crime.
For more on Afghanistan, please see: [ID:nAFPAK]
Public support for the mission is low in Poland, the biggest
ex-communist NATO member, and pulling out became a key issue in
last year's presidential election. Poland hopes to withdraw all
its troops from the Afghan mission by 2014.
NATO and Afghan officials said on Sunday at least nine
civilians were killed in a NATO-led air strike in one of the
deadliest foreign assaults on civilians in Afghanistan in
(Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)
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