Lawyer says U.S. blocks investigation of Afghan massacre
By Bill Rigby
SEATTLE (Reuters) - The lawyer defending the U.S. soldier accused of murdering 17 Afghan civilians claims U.S. authorities are blocking his ability to investigate the incident.
John Henry Browne, the lawyer for Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, said U.S. forces in Afghanistan have prevented his team from interviewing injured civilians at a hospital in Kandahar, and are allowing other potential witnesses to scatter, making it difficult to track them down.
"My gut is the reason is they don't have much of a case," said Browne at a press conference at his downtown Seattle office on Friday.
Bales was formally charged last week with the murders of eight adults and nine children in a pre-dawn shooting rampage in southern Afghanistan on March 11, which further eroded U.S.-Afghan relations already strained by a decade of war.
He could face the death penalty if convicted.
No date has been set for a trial, but U.S. military prosecutors are putting together their case while Browne is preparing his defence.
Browne said he has a team of investigators in Afghanistan now, but they are receiving little cooperation from military prosecutors who filed the charges.
"We are 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," he said in a statement released earlier on Friday. Continued...