Afghan massacre investigation blocked by US – lawyer
Published: 31 March, 2012, 08:03
Afghan National Army soldiers keep watch as Afghans gather outside a U.S. base in Panjwai district Kandahar province, March 11, 2012 (Reuters/Ahmad Nadeem)
The defense lawyer for Robert Bales, who is accused of killing 17 Afghan civilians, is blaming the US for blocking his team’s fact-finding mission into the Kandahar incident. He says he can’t interview witnesses and prosecutors won’t cooperate.
John Henry Browne claims US forces in Afghanistan obstructed him and his associates from reaching the injured civilians at a hospital in Kandahar province to interview them on the matter, Reuters reports. He added that other possible witnesses were allowed to get away, with little possibility of finding them now. According to Browne, after investigators interviewed those injured, they let them go freely without leaving any contact information, and they are not sharing data they obtained from the witnesses with his team. He says Bales' defense has only managed to talk to US soldiers in Afghanistan, but no witnesses.
Bales’ lawyer also regretted that investigators withheld images captured by a surveillance camera on a blimp above the base, which the Army says shows Bales returning after the alleged shooting.
Browne explains that the military prosecutors who filed the charges against Bales have been unwilling to cooperate, and that “they are concerned about the strength of their case.”
The lawyer complained of 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.”
For the time being Bales will have his psychological condition examined. Officials also say that due to security concerns, Bales is likely to remain at the Fort Leavenworth military base in Kansas, and will not be transferred to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center outside Washington, DC. The exam, officially called “board 706,” is routine for mass murder cases such as Bales’. Bales is charged with multiple counts of premeditated murder, a crime that could be punishable by death. The Kandahar shooting spree earlier this month sparked outrage among Afghan lawmakers, who demanded that Bales be tried in an Afghan court.