US Soldier To Be Charged With 17 Counts of Murder In Afghan Massacre
Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the soldier accused of being the lone shooter in the mass murder of Afghan villagers on March 11, will be officially charged today with 17 counts of murder.
The news of 17 counts of murder is a confusing one as only 16 villagers were originally reported killed. Afghan officials are still reporting only 16 deaths, saying they have not receiving any information on an additional death. Officials could not comment on the 17th murder charge yet, but it is expected to be explained when Bales is officially charged later today.
Bales was removed from Afghanistan last week, citing a lack of proper facilities to detain a U.S. prisoner for an extended period of time. Bales is now being held at the military prison Leavenworth in Kansas. Bales' lawyer, John Henry Browne, declined to comment until he saw the official list of charges, but did say,
"There's probably not much to say."
However, Browne already seems optimistic about the upcoming trial saying that the prosecution will have to prove every claim without a murder scene or forensic evidence. Some military law experts have agreed that the case will be difficult to prove as no autopsies were performed on the victims so they could be buried according to Islamic customs, and witnesses may be unwilling/unable to make the trip to America to testify.
Afghan officials are still demanding that Bales be returned to Afghanistan to face trial, questioning the U.S.'s official version of the events, believing there may have been more than one shooter. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has now demanded all soldiers be removed from Afghan villages and return to their bases, saying that relations between the two countries are now "at the end of their rope." Originally, soldiers were set to be removed in 2014, but many are now questioning if that date should be pushed up.
Apart from the 17 counts of murder, Bales is also to be charged with 6 counts of assault and attempted murder. Originally, reports indicated that alcohol may have been involved and Bales could have been suffering from an undiagnosed case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD, formerly known as "Shell Shock"). It is currently unknown how, or if, those will play in his defense. Many also expect the suggested penalty to be death.