THE lawyer for a US soldier charged with killing 17 villagers in southern Afghanistan said on Wednesday he will cite Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to defend the serviceman.
Attorney John Henry Browne added that prosecutors will have trouble proving their case against Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, whose alleged attack further strained already tense ties between Washington and Kabul.
Bales, 38, is said to have walked out of his base in the southern province of Kandahar in the early hours of March 11 and mounted a massacre in two nearby villages, with many of his victims women and children.
"When the experts are done with this case, there'll definitely be PTSD ... I know a lot about PTSD and the symptoms and everything, and I'm convinced from my conversations that PTSD will be an issue," he told CNN.
The lawyer, who said he has met his client for 11 hours, downplayed reports that Bales had confessed, or even spoken about the shootings when he returned from the alleged attacks in the early hours.
"I don't know that I trust anything about him saying 'I shot people,' because I have not heard that from any source I trust," Mr Browne told CNN in an interview.
Bales, who is being held at the Fort Leavenworth military base in Kansas, has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, as well as six counts of assault and attempted murder in connection with the massacre.
Mr Browne claimed there was a lack of evidence from the scene.
"It's not a traditional crime scene. There is no crime scene. The military has not even been back to the villages where this allegation stems from. They haven't been back there," Mr Browne said.
"So there's no crime scene, there's no DNA, there's no fingerprints, there's no confession. It's – you know, the Afghan people traditionally, I understand, and understandably, bury their dead very quickly.
"So it's going to be a tough case for the prosecutors," he added.
The killings have put further strain on the already difficult relationship between Kabul and Washington, after the burning of Korans by American soldiers in mid-February triggered deadly anti-US protests.