by Joshua Foust on 5/8/2009 · 6 comments

Without getting into too many details, I had hoped this would happen, and it did:

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A former military contractor was sentenced Friday to probation for shooting and killing a handcuffed prisoner in Afghanistan.

Don Ayala of New Orleans pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges that normally would carry up to eight years in prison. But U.S. District Senior Judge Claude Hilton decided probation was warranted under the circumstances. The man whom Ayala shot had set fire to one of Ayala’s colleagues minutes before the shooting.

After the Nov. 4 attack on anthropologist Paula Loyd, Ayala helped subdue the man, Abdul Salam. When Ayala learned the extent of Loyd’s burns, he shot Salam at close range.

The sentencing, mind you, not Paula Loyd’s murder (she died a few months after being set ablaze).

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– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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BruceR May 8, 2009 at 3:14 pm

Paula was a great person. I felt so sorry for Don when I heard about this from the next district over. I’m so glad it didn’t end any the worse for him.

DB May 10, 2009 at 5:03 pm

Yes, what a relief. And I always thought executing an prisoner was against the Geneva convention. Nice to be reassured that Americans can execute Afghans when and how they like, and get away with it. Great news.

BruceR May 11, 2009 at 8:09 am

Not just Afghans. I’m the proud supporter of anyone who, faced with someone attacking an unarmed civilian woman, pouring gasoline over her, and burning her mortally, puts a bullet in that individual’s head immediately. Regardless of nationality, he’s no loss to the species.

Joshua Foust May 11, 2009 at 9:45 am

Yeah, DB, there is a big difference between Haditha—killing unarmed civilians during a cordon-and-search—and killing a guy who had just tortured your best friend nearly to death. Much as I complain about the military overstepping boundaries they shouldn’t, this is not one of those times. Frankly, I’m surprised at how many people who proclaim their own compassion and empathy find nothing but scorn for Don. And, more importantly, Paula, who, let us not forget, was unarmed and no in uniform. She was targetted because she was clearly a civilian woman who was NOT a soldier. Abdul Salam got off easy, as far as I’m concerned.

DB May 11, 2009 at 7:22 pm

None of this changes the facts of the case, that a prisoner was shot dead in cold blood. Can either of you point out the place in the Geneva Convention where “I was angry” can be used as a defence?

If not, can you at least confirm that you regard the American military and their hangers-on as above the law? That would clarify the terms of the discussion here.

Joshua Foust May 11, 2009 at 7:26 pm

Those are two different issues. The details of the murder specifically are not as iron-clad as you make it out to be, specifically issues surrounding the differences between POWs, detainees, and simply “restrained.” I don’t, either, but be honest and not an ideologue about it for a few minutes, okay?

As to the extenuating circumstances of Abdul Salam’s death, U.S. law allows intent, “temporary insanity” and other similar defenses for “heat of the moment” crimes. The judge decided this fell into one of those territories. Unless you think his ruling was illegal in some way. But you haven’t made that case, just glib comments about laws I don’t think you understand.

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