WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A Polish military court on Thursday convicted four former and current army officers in a retrial over the deaths of six civilians during the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan. Three received suspended prison terms.
The five-judge panel found the four guilty of negligence in giving orders by directing mortar and machine-gun fire on the village of Nangar Khel in 2007.
The court handed a suspended 2-year term to Platoon Commander Tomasz Borysiewicz, who fired the mortar rounds that killed the civilians. Warrant Officer Andrzej Osiecki received a 1-year suspended sentence. And 2nd Lt. Lukasz Bywalec was given a 6-month suspended sentence. Private First Class Damian Ligocki was found guilty of firing his machine gun, but the court provisionally did not hand out a punishment. Osiecki was absent from court.
The court cleared the four of war crimes charges brought by the military prosecutors. They had all pleaded innocent, blaming faulty ammunition and saying the deaths were an accident.
The four were part of a team of seven Polish troops who were stranded near the village while on a patrol in August 2007. They claimed that they came under fire from Taliban forces who later hid in the village. They said they were aiming at the Taliban hideout, but by accident the mortars hit a home. Those killed included women and children; three women were injured.
All seven officers were acquitted in 2011, but the prosecutors appealed in the case of the four. It was the first time Poland's army has held a war crimes trial.