Robert Bales, the U.S. Army staff sergeant accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians in a massacre more than a week ago, is expected to be charged Friday with 17 counts of murder, as well as additional charges at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., according to various media reports.
Bales is accused of walking away from his base to an Afghan village and shooting and stabbing to death several families, including nine children.
John Henry Browne, the lead attorney for the accused soldier, told The New York Times he was unsurprised by the charges and unconvinced by the facts.
“There’s definitely brain injury, no question about it,” Browne told the Times. "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, in a trial that could stretch for years over a series of hearings, could face the death penalty if convicted. There are currently six soldiers and airmen on the U.S. military's death row.
According to the BBC, it's not yet clear why Bales is set to face 17 murder charges. NATO and U.S. officials had previously set the death toll in the attack at 16, though some have cautioned it could actually be higher.
The Taliban criticized the proceedings, saying they have no faith in any trial.
"This was a planned activity and we will certainly take revenge on all American forces in Afghanistan and don't trust such trials," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, according to the BBC.