The military hearing for a US Army sergeant accused of murdering 16 Afghan civilians in March began on Monday and is expected to last the remainder of the week. Sgt. Robert Bales was originally charged with 17 counts of murder, including women and children, in a Kandahar village, but one charge was dropped [JURIST reports] in June. Bales also stands accused of six counts of attempted murder, seven counts of assault, and illicit use of alcohol and steroids. Some speculate that Bales, who served three tours in Iraq prior to his tour in Afghanistan, may use symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as a defense to the killings. The hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence for a trial is proceeding according to Article 32 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice [text].
Bales allegedly went on a shooting rampage [JURIST report] in a Kandahar village in March and immediately turned himself in at his base. He is not the first US soldier prosecuted in relation to deaths of civilians in Afghanistan. In February, the US Army dropped charges [JURIST report] against Army Specialist Michael Wagnon, the last of five soldiers to be charged in connection with the killing of three Afghan civilians. In November, US Sgt. Calvin Gibbs was convicted on 15 charges [JURIST report] of murder, assault, and conspiracy in the same case. Before Gibbs was convicted, in March of last year, Army Specialist Jeremy Morlock admitted to three counts of murder [JURIST report] as part of a plot with other soldiers to kill Afghan civilians.