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Lawyer For U.S. Suspect In Afghan Killings Says Government Hiding Evidence

Staff Sergeant Robert Bales (left) in a 2011 photograph
The lawyer for U.S. Army Sergeant Robert Bales, accused of killing 17 Afghan civilians in a shooting rampage earlier this month, said the government is "hiding evidence" and not providing promised cooperation for the defense to prepare its case.

John Henry Browne said his team has been not been able to interview witnesses in Afghanistan.

"People on our staff in Afghanistan went to the hospital -- supposedly there were eyewitnesses to this allegation -- and we were told by the prosecutors to come back the next day," Brown said. "Then we went back the next day and they were all released from the hospital, and they've all been scattered throughout Afghanistan. So that was a violation of the trust that we had in the prosecutors."

Browne said the "prosecution is withholding the entire investigative file from the defense team while the potential witnesses scatter into unknown and potentially inaccessible areas in Afghanistan."

Bales allegedly left his base in Kandahar Province before dawn on the morning of March 11 and shot 17 Afghan civilians, including nine children, while they slept in their beds, before burning some of the bodies.

Browne said he understood his client was being tried by a military court and that the rules are different than for a civilian courts.

But he said military and government authorities "actually promised us that if we sent people to Afghanistan…they would cooperate."

"They've obviously violated that promise," Brown said.

Bales could face the death penalty if convicted.

Based on reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters

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