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Robert Bales, soldier in Afghan killings to get psych exam

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SEATTLE (AP) - The attorney for the soldier accused of killing 17 Afghan civilians says the military is planning to conduct a comprehensive mental health evaluation of his client.

John Henry Browne says at a Friday news conference that officials would likely travel to the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., to conduct the assessment of his client, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales.

Browne says the military initiated the evaluation and that it will take place within the next two months. He says it will likely delay the overall legal process involving Bales.

Bales has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. The military says he left his base in southern Afghanistan and went on a shooting rampage through two villages on March 11.

Browne told The Associated Press that 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."

"It's outrageous," Browne said. "What they are basically doing is hiding evidence. The only reason to hide evidence is if you don't have evidence."

An Army spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking comment on Browne's allegations.

Bales has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. He remained held at a U.S. 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.

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