Obstruction of Afghan Massacre Investigation
by Gregory Patin
John Henry Browne, the defense attorney representing Staff Sergeant Robert Bales who is accused of killing 17 Afghan civilians in Kandahar earlier this month, says he cannot interview witnesses and prosecutors will not cooperate with his team's investigation.
"We are facing an almost complete information blackout from the government, which is having a devastating effect on our ability to investigate the charges preferred against our client," Browne said in a statement released on Friday.
According to a Reuters report, Browne claims U.S. forces in Afghanistan obstructed him and his associates from reaching the injured civilians at a hospital in Kandahar province to interview them about the incident:
When we tried to interview the injured civilians being treated at Kandahar Hospital we were denied access and told to coordinate with the prosecution team. The next day the prosecution team interviewed the civilians injured. We found out shortly after the prosecution interviews of the injured civilians that the civilians were all released from the hospital and there was no contact information for them.
That means potential witnesses will scatter and could prove unreachable, making it virtually impossible to track them down. Thus far Bales' defense has only managed to talk to U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, but not victims or actual witnesses of the attack.
Browne explains that the military prosecutors who filed the charges against Bales have possibly been unwilling to cooperate because "they are concerned about the strength of their case."
Browne's statements raise questions about whether the U.S. military really wants to punish the guilty party to the fullest extent of the law and raise suspicions that the U.S. government is concealing some ugly truth about the Kandahar massacre. In the days immediately following the incident, reports about the events in U.S. media sources widely varied from those in overseas sources.