The American soldier accused of murdering 16 Afghans, mostly women and children, back in March, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales will appear at a preliminary hearing early next month, and one of the issues the court will deal with is a version of the story knocked around ever since the crime was committed: Bales did not act alone.
“There are witness statements that there was more than one shooter,” said Bales’s lead civilian lawyer, John Henry Browne, who will claim the government lacks enough evidence to prove his Bales’s guilt.
Eyewitness accounts of Afghan villagers established from the beginning that Bales was not the only soldier to methodically shoot and burn the bodies of 16 Afghan civilians. But he was the only one accused, with no other names coming to the authorities.
“Two Americans came into the room, and the kids started screaming,” said Bibi Massoma, whose husband, Mohammed Dawood, and children were murdered. While one soldier shot Massoma’s unarmed husband in the head, the other “stuck a pistol into the mouth of 6-month-old Hazaratullah,” reports the Daily Beast, “put his finger to his lips and said if the child did not stop crying he would kill all of them – which he proceeded to do.”
American soldiers who have committed heinous crimes against civilians in war zones have a history of getting off easy. And in an ironic way, the suggestion that Bales did not act alone “could, in fact, help Browne compel a settlement for his client, who faces the death penalty if convicted—and ensure that the public never learns what really happened that night,” according to the Daily Beast.
The preliminary hearing will take place one day before the presidential election next month and will last two weeks. The real trial is a long, undetermined, way away.