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Afghans angry that shooting suspect flown out of country (+video)

The US military says it is standard procedure to move the suspect, but many Afghans are demanding the US soldier accused of killing 16 villagers in Kandahar face justice in the country.

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The Christian Science Monitor reported that US troops in Afghanistan fall under the Military Technical Agreement, “which ensures that any US service member accused of wrongdoing will be held accountable by US military law and proceedings.” The question of who handles the court hearing and assigns the punishment has long been a controversial issue in Afghanistan, as it was in Iraq.

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The Afghan government has previously agreed to go along with the Military Technical Agreement, but local pushback to the arrangement and demands that international coalition troops stand trial in Afghan courts are growing, the Monitor reports.

“I’m sure that the government will start talking to the foreigners about the prosecution of the foreign soldiers in Afghanistan after this incident. The Afghan government looks serious about it now,” says Rohullah Qarizada, head of Afghanistan’s Bar Association. “In the past, foreign soldiers committed crimes and the Afghan government could not prosecute them. Now I believe the Afghan government learned from the past and it will talk to the Americans about it.”

Shekiba Hashimi, a member of parliament from Kandahar and part of the team investigating the incident, warned that removing the suspect from the country would only exacerbate local anger. “If he is not tried and punished in the country, people will rise up against the Americans,” she told Reuters.

The Taliban have threatened to behead US personnel in the country in retaliation for the shooting, and insurgents have attacked Afghan officials who are investigating the incident. Earlier this week, Afghans called on President Hamid Karzai to reject an agreement that would allow US advisers to remain in Afghanistan after the withdrawal date of 2014, Reuters reports.

Negotiations were difficult even before the shooting and now many Afghan lawmakers are telling Mr. Karzai to refuse to sign the agreement unless the suspect is tried in the country, the Associated Press reports.

Abdul Khaliq Balakarzai, another Kandahar lawmaker, said President Hamid Karzai should respond to the U.S. decision to move the soldier by refusing to sign the strategic partnership agreement. "If the trial was in Afghanistan, the people would see that America doesn't like this soldier and wants to punish him," said Balakarzai. "But unfortunately America ignored our demand."

Despite this, the overall reaction to the shooting has been much more subdued than the reaction to last month’s Quran burning by US troops. The Afghan government has worked to persuade Afghans not to protest, according to AP.

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