SEATTLE, Washington - Two more US soldiers face hearings this week over a rogue army unit that allegedly executed Afghan civilians, mutilated the corpses, then beat another soldier for blowing the whistle.
They include alleged ringleader Staff Sergeant Calvin R. Gibbs, who will face a military investigating officer three weeks after a first member of the unit was sent for a full court martial.
The hearings begin late Monday and will decide if there is enough evidence to send the two to military trial on charges that they, and 10 other soldiers, murdered Afghans for sport or participated in a cover-up of the killings.
First up will be Corporal Emmitt Quintal, 22, one of seven soldiers allegedly involved in the conspiracy to conceal evidence about the killings, as well as drug use by the soldiers. He does not face murder accusations.
More anticipated will be the court appearance from Tuesday of Gibbs, 26, who prosecutors allege led four other soldiers in killing Afghanis for sport over several months this year in southern Kandahar province.
The Washington Post has reported that other members of his unit fingered Gibbs as the man who came up with the idea of randomly targeting Afghan civilians for slaughter.
In January this year Gibbs is alleged to have killed an Afghan man by throwing a grenade at him and shooting him with a rifle, according to charging documents released by the Army.
In September prosecutors, in hearings at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord base south of Seattle in the northwestern state of Washington, also accused Gibbs of taking trophies from the victims, including finger and leg bones, and a tooth.
Altogether, Gibbs faces three counts of premeditated murder, along with related charges, including conspiracy to commit murder, impeding an investigation, and dereliction of duty.
In September, the Army held a similar hearing for Specialist Jeremy Morlock, 22, of Wasila, Alaska, who also stands accused of murder. The investigating officer announced in mid-October that Morlock would face a full court martial.
The soldiers were all members of the Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, from the 2nd Infantry Division's Stryker brigade, at Forward Operating Base Ramrod, in southern Kandahar province.
The outcome of the hearings, and any trials that follow, may have significant implications for the explosive region