Conflict & Justice

Robert Bales, US soldier accused of killing 16 people in Afghanistan, faces military hearing


An Afghan delegation walks with locals after a memorial ceremony in Alokozai village in Kandahar province on March 13, 2012, two days after at least 16 innocent Afghan civilians were shot and killed by at least one US soldier.



Robert Bales, the US soldier accused of killing 16 people, including children, during a predawn raid on two villages in Afghanistan, is set to appear in a military courtroom for the first time.

His wife Kari Bales, meantime, told ABC News that her husband was innocent

"My husband did not do this  ... I know my husband. I know him very well, and especially the talk about the women and the children. I knew that it wasn't my husband. So it was just incomprehensible to me."

Bales, 39, a decorated veteran of four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, is facing the military version of a preliminary hearing — called an Article 32 hearing — to determine if there is sufficient evidence for a court martial.

The hearing, which may last two weeks, will hear testimony from witnesses in Afghanistan, the AP wrote.

"This hearing is important for all of us in terms of learning what the government can actually prove," Bales’ attorney, John Henry Browne, reportedly said.

"The defense’s job is to get as much information as possible. That’s what our goal is, in preparation for what is certainly going to be a court martial."

The US Army Staff Sergeant and married father of two — ages 5 and 2 — allegedly walked off his base outside of Kandahar on the night of March 11 and, using night-vision goggles, opened fire on civilians in their homes in two villages, the Associated Press wrote

According to UPI, he allegedly then returned to his base before leaving again and killing more civilians in another village.

He was facing 16 counts of premeditated murder, six counts of attempted murder, and charges of wrongful possession and use of steroids and alcohol while deployed.

He could face the death penalty, however, Browne has hinted at a defense strategy that involves a claim of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to the AP, Bales had served three stints in Iraq before being posted to Afghanistan. His arrest and the subsequent charges prompted a national discussion about the stresses of multiple deployments. 

Kari, short for Karilyn, had also complained about the couple's financial difficulties on a blog in the year before the killings. She also said that Bales was disappointed at being passed over for a promotion.

More from GlobalPost: US soldier Robert Bales charged with 17 murder counts