U.S. Army sergeant Robert Bales is being accused of causing massacres in at least 2 Afghan villages, following a night of heavy drinking.
The decorated soldier from Seattle has served four times in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was stationed in the Afghan Kandahar province, when the incident occurred, in March.
A hearing is set to determine whether Bales' case will be heard by a Martial Court. If so, he will be tried for 16 counts of premeditated murder for the killing of civilians in villages neighboring the U.S. base.
He is also being charged with 6 counts of attempted murder, after opening fire on residents, in the middle of the night. He will stand trial for ingesting steroids and alcohol as well, as U.S. army regulations ban their consumption on base, while deployed.
Bales has enlisted the help of civilian counselor John Henry Browne, and two military attorneys, Major Gregory Malson and Captain Matthew Aeisi, NBC News informs. Browne has suggested the officer was not acting alone, and that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Bales was moved to the Lewis-McChord base in October, for his hearing. The sergeant was subjected to a mental fitness exam, the results of which have not been made public at this point.
The hearing, set at Lewis-McChord, the defendant's infantry regiment base, will go on for two weeks. If convicted, sergeant Robert Bales is facing the death penalty for his actions.
Video testimonies from Afghanistan will be given at night, and military prosecutors are set to present surveillance footage as evidence. Browne also unveiled plans to bring witness testimony from locals, five to fifteen in total, as well as from Kandahar Air Field personnel.
The shooting in the Kandahar province, Afghanistan, has been dubbed the worst civilian massacre by U.S. soldiers since the Vietnam War.