A senior United States official said on Thursday that staff Sgt. Robert Bales will be charged on Friday with 17 counts of murder and various other charges, among which attempted murder, in connection with the March 11 attack on Afghan civilians, reports The New York Times.
The charges signed against Bales include 17 counts of murder, six counts of aggravated assault, six counts of attempted murder, dereliction of duty and other violations of military law.
The 38-year-old soldier and father of two who lives in Lake Tapps, Wash., is accused of walking away from his remote base in southern Afghanistan, shooting and stabbing members of Afghsn families in a nighttime ambush.
At least nine victims were children and some others were women. Several sources said 16 people were killed, though some also said the number could be higher.
According to The Huff Post, the charges will be read to Robert Bales on Friday. He is now held in a military prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas and faces trial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
John Henry Browne Bales’ lawer said that Sergeant did not remember some events at the time of the attack.
In Afghanistan Bales was on his fourth tour of duty, having served three tours in Iraq, where he suffered a head injury and a foot injury. “There’s definitely brain injury, no question about it,” Mr. Browne said.
Mr. Browne also said that the sergeant had not sought or received treatment for a concussion he suffered during a car crash in Iraq in a previous deployment.
Browne has portrayed his client as a patriot, loving father and devoted husband who had been traumatized by a comrade’s injury and sent into combat one too many times.
“I’m not putting the war on trial,” Browne said, “but the war is on trial. If I can help create a discussion about the war, that would be a great way for me to go out.”
Browne also added that he expected the charges.
“I’m not persuaded by many facts,” he said. “There’s no crime scene. There’s no DNA. There’s no confession, although they’re leaking something, which I don’t believe until I see it.”
“This is going to be a hard case for the government to prove. And my client can’t help me a lot with some of the things because he has mental problems and I believe they’re totally legitimate.”
Bales’s legal proceedings could last for several years. He is going to face an Article 32 hearing, in which the Army formally decides whether to press charges. If he is charged in an Article 32 hearing, he will most likely face a court-martial.
The sergeant has been based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, south of Tacoma, Wash., when he was not deployed overseas. Although Sergeant Bales is being held in Kansas, Mr. Browne said Thursday that he believed there was a strong chance legal proceedings in the future could take place at Lewis-McChord.
The deadly shooting has further frayed the relationship between the American and Afghan governments. Earlier this year United States military personnel burned Korans at an Afghan base, an act that prompted widespread public protests and a series of killings.
The brutal attack also prompted renewed debate in the United States about health care for the troops, who have experienced record suicide rates and high rates of post-traumatic stress and brain injuries during repeated deployments over a decade of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.