The US soldier implicated in the massacre of 16 Afghan civilians doesn't remember the incident, his lawyer has said. Robert Bales may face the death penalty for the killings that plunged US-Afghan relations to a new low.
The Army staff sergeant accused of slaughtering 16 villagers in Afghanistan has a sketchy memory of the night of the massacre, his lawyer said Monday following their first face-to-face meeting.
"He has an early memory of that evening and he has a later memory ... but he doesn't have memory of the evening in between," attorney John Henry Browne told US television network CBS. "That doesn't mean he has amnesia. There are a lot of other options," Browne added.
Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, 38, is suspected of walking off his base in southern Afghanistan on March 11 and gunning nine children and three women. The decorated veteran also allegedly set fire to several of his victims during the late-night rampage.
He hasn't yet been charged with the shootings. However, the Pentagon has said that Bales, who had done three tours in Iraq before deploying to Afghanistan in December, could be charged within days. According to US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, if convicted, he could face the death penalty.
After speaking with Bales for several hours at the military prison in Kansas, where he is being held in solitary confinement, Browne ruled out the possibility of putting forward an insanity defense in any proceedings. He told CBS News, however, that Bales could pursue the case on the grounds of "diminished capacity" due to an emotional breakdown.
The incident sparked protests in Afghanistan and has severely damaged US-Afghan relations. In the wake of the attacks, the Taliban broke off possible peace talks with the US.
Separately, Bales' wife Karilyn issued a statement on Monday expressing sorrow for the victims.
"Our family has little information beyond what we read and see in the media. What has been reported is completely out of character of the man I know and admire," the statement said.
ccp/ncy (AFP, AP, Reuters)