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Suspect’s Attorney Says Gov Hiding Evidence In Afghan Killings Case

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SEATTLE (CBS Seattle/AP) — The attorney for Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the U.S. soldier accused of killing 17 Afghan civilians, said Friday that the U.S. government is “hiding evidence” from the defense team.

John Henry Browne said members of the defense team in Afghanistan were told they would have access to witnesses at a hospital, but later discovered the people had been released.

He also said the U.S. government has not turned over files to the lawyers defending Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales.

The defense team said in a statement the prosecution is withholding information “while potential witnesses scatter.”

Bales, based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. The military says Bales left his base on southern Afghanistan and went on a nighttime shooting rampage through two villages on March 11.

At a news conference Friday, Browne said the military is planning to conduct a comprehensive mental health evaluation of Bales at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

The defense statement said the team in Afghanistan attempted to interview injured civilians being treated at a hospital in Kandahar, but were denied access and told to coordinate with prosecutors.

The prosecution team interviewed the civilians, but the defense team said they were unable to after the people were released and no contact information was provided for them.

Browne’s team also said they have been denied access to the civilians’ medical records, as well as video allegedly taken from a surveillance blimp showing Bales on the night of the killings.

U.S. military officials have said Bales was drinking on the base before creeping away to the villages, shooting his victims and setting many of them on fire. Nine were children.

Bales has had incidents involving alcohol and violence in the past. In 2002, he was arrested for a drunken assault of a security guard at a Tacoma casino. That charge was dismissed after Bales completed 20 hours of anger management training.

In 2008, a couple accused an intoxicated Bales of grabbing a woman’s hand and thrusting it toward his crotch before kicking and punching the woman’s boyfriend, according to a police report. Prosecutors declined to pursue that case.

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