Afghans to testify by video at US army trial
A HEARING for an American soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians has been set for 5 November at an army base in Washington State, with villagers expected to testify by video from Kandahar air field in Afghanistan.
Staff Sergeant Robert Bales is expected to appear at Joint Base Lewis-McChord for the pre-trial hearing, which is expected to last two weeks, Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Dangerfield said. The second week of the hearing will be held in the evening so villagers can testify during daylight hours in Afghanistan.
Defence lawyer John Henry Browne plans to fly to Afghanistan to cross-examine the witnesses, while other members of the defence team remain at Lewis-McChord, south of Seattle.
The hearing will determine whether Bales faces a full court martial.
Bales faces 16 counts of premeditated murder; six counts of attempted murder; seven of assault; and one each of possessing steroids, using steroids, destroying a laptop, burning bodies and using alcohol. He is being held in the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Investigators say Bales was armed with a 9mm pistol and M4 rifle fitted with a grenade launcher when he walked off his base in southern Afghanistan at night on 11 March and went on a killing spree.
Mr Browne said more than ten Afghans could be called as witnesses, and some have been difficult to round up. He said the hearing was important because it may be his only opportunity to question them.
Bales could face the death penalty if convicted. Bales deployed three times to Iraq before being sent to Afghanistan with the 3rd Stryker Brigade. He was at a Special Forces outpost at the time of the killings.
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