Wednesday, April 24, 2013

 

Soldier charged in Afghan killings back in court


Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians in a 2012 attack on two villages in southern Afghanistan.



JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Washington — Robert Bales, the U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians during a 2012 rampage, is scheduled in court Tuesday for another hearing.

Defense lawyers for Bales and military prosecutors were to convene at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, south of Seattle.

Bales is to be court-martialed on premeditated murder and other charges in the attack on two villages in southern Afghanistan. The Ohio native and father of two is accused of slaying mostly women and children during pre-dawn raids on March 11, 2012.

Bales, 39, has not entered a plea. The Army is seeking the death penalty. The U.S. military has not executed anyone since 1961.

The slayings last year drew such angry protests that the U.S. temporarily halted combat operations in Afghanistan, and it was three weeks before American investigators could reach the crime scenes.

Bales' defense team has said the government's case is incomplete, and outside experts believe a key issue going forward will be to determine if Bales suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Bales served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

During a previous preliminary hearing, prosecutors built a strong eyewitness case against the veteran soldier, with troops recounting how they saw Bales return to the base alone, covered in blood. One soldier testified that Bales woke him up in the middle of the night, saying he had just shot people at one village and that he was heading out again to attack another. The soldier said he didn't believe Bales and went back to sleep.

Afghan witnesses questioned via a video link from a forward operating base near Kandahar City described the horror of that night. A teenage boy recalled how the gunman kept firing as youths scrambled, yelling: "We are children! We are children!"

An Army criminal investigations command special agent testified earlier that Bales tested positive for steroids three days after the killings, and other soldiers testified that Bales had been drinking the evening of the massacre.

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