WASHINGTON — US Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales is likely to be formally charged in the next few days with the shooting deaths of 16 Afghan villagers, an American military official told AFP on Monday.
Bales, 38, is accused of leaving his base in the Panjwayi district of Kandahar province on the night of March 11 to commit the killings, which included nine children. He allegedly set several of their bodies on fire.
The soldier — who prosecutors say returned to his base and turned himself in to authorities after the incident — faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted, according to US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
Under the US military justice system, prosecutors draft charges to be filed against an accused soldier, then present them to his unit commander, who must then decide whether there is enough evidence to believe a crime was committed.
If so, the commander signs the charging documents so that the case can be “preferred” for formal prosecution.
“My understanding is that the preferral of charges on Sergeant Bales will be announced by (his commanding officer in) Afghanistan,” the US Army official told AFP.
“I expect it to be within the next few days. It is that point in time when a suspect is formally charged.”
Before trial, Bales must appear at an “Article 32” hearing — a preliminary hearing at which prosecutors argue for a court-martial.
The attack plunged US-Afghan relations into deep crisis, with Afghan President Hamid Karzai stating that international forces should leave villages in his country.
Bales initially was sent to a military base in Kuwait then transferred to the US military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he is kept in isolation in a cell, according to Army officials.
Bales met his civilian attorney, John Henry Browne, at the base on Monday, Fort Leavenworth public information officer Jeff Wingo told AFP.
Browne said last week that Bales had recently been under stress, which was heightened when he witnessed a fellow soldier seriously wounded by stepping on a mine. He did not explain the legal defense he would use for his client.
The US media reported that Bales, who in addition to Browne also has a military lawyer, and his wife were enduring financial problems.
The non-commissioned officer, who joined the Army two months after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, served three tours of duty in Iraq and had been in Afghanistan since December.
Trump ‘will not leave his office if he narrowly loses in 2020’: Conservative columnist issues dire warning
President Donald Trump will fight to remain in power regardless of the outcome if the 2020 election is close, a conservative columnist warned on Saturday.
Andrew Sullivan blasted Trump in New York magazine, honing in on the commander-in-chief's lying.
"For Trump, lying is central to his disturbed psyche, and to his success. The brazenness of it unbalances and stupefies sane and adjusted people, thereby constantly giving him an edge and a little breathing space while we try to absorb it, during which he proceeds to the next lie," he wrote.
‘Veto the Cheato’: Americans gathered nationwide for #ImpeachTrump rallies
Frustrated Americans on Saturday attended #ImpeachTrump rallies from coast-to-coast.
The rallies were organized by MoveOn, Indivisible, Democracy for America, the Women's March, Credo and other progressive organizations.
Over 140 events were held nationwide.
[caption id="attachment_1513038" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Map of #ImpeachTrump rallies in the contiguous United States.[/caption]
Many attendees took the time to create hand-made protest signs, while others held printed banners.
‘Weakness doesn’t win elections’: Indivisible co-founder explains why members are holding #ImpeachTrump rallies
The growing support to commence impeachment proceedings by House Democrats is driven by their need to fire up grassroots support to hold control of the chamber, an Indivisible co-founder explained on MSNBC.
"The call for impeachment continues. this as protesters are hitting the street in more than 140 rallies planned across the country. Organizers say the "Impeach Trump" event is a day of action urging House Democrats to start impeachment proceedings," MSNBC's Richard Lui reported Saturday.
"A new survey from the indivisible project finds 80 percent of their respondents say the House should start impeachment proceedings," he noted. "Right now in the House, 63 Democrats and one Republican support impeachment."