Michael Kelley – Business Insider March 31, 2012
U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales has been officially charged with the premeditated murder of 17 Afghan civilians and could face the death penalty.
The 38-year-old soldier’s lawyer, John Henry Browne, released a statement Friday that said that the defense team is “facing an almost complete information blackout from the government, which is having a devastating effect on our ability to investigate the charges preferred against our client.”
Browne said his investigators spoke with U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan but were obstructed from speaking to any witnesses.
“When we tried to interview the injured civilians being treated at Kandahar Hospital we were denied access and told to coordinate with the prosecution team,” Browne said in the earlier statement.
“The next day the prosecution team interviewed the civilians injured. We found out shortly after the prosecution interviews of the injured civilians that the civilians were all released from the hospital and there was no contact information for them.” That means potential witnesses will scatter and could prove unreachable, Browne said.
Prosecutors had not shared their investigative findings with his team, and would not share images captured by a surveillance camera on a blimp above the base which the Army says shows Bales returning to the camp after the alleged shooting, he said.
Bales is accused of walking off a U.S. military base in Panjwai district of Kandahar province before dawn on March 11 with his 9mm pistol and M-4 rifle and killing nine Afghan children and eight adults as well as burning some of the bodies.
Afghan villagers doubt Bales acted alone, but other reports suggest Bales left his base twice during the night.