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U.S. lacks "proof" on Afghan shooting: suspect's lawyer

By Kevin Murphy

LANSING, Kansas (Reuters) - U.S. authorities lack proof of what occurred the night a U.S. soldier is suspected of killing 16 villagers in Afghanistan, the lawyer representing the serviceman said on Tuesday.

"I'm very concerned now they don't have much proof of anything," attorney John Henry Browne told Reuters after meeting with U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales on Tuesday for a second day in a military detention center in Kansas.

Browne said he has now spent 11 hours with Bales discussing the events of Sunday, March 11, when Bales allegedly walked off his base in southern Afghanistan and gunned down the 16 civilians, including nine children and three women, in a massacre that damaged U.S.-Afghan relations.

Bales, 38, a four-tour combat veteran, has not yet been charged, but Browne told reporters on Tuesday he expected his client to be charged with "homicide and a bunch of other charges" on Thursday. He added that the case could stretch over two years.

"I don't know what the evidence is," Browne told reporters. "We've all heard the allegations. I don't know that the government has proved much. There is no forensic evidence, there is no confession."

Browne said Bales is still "in shock" and cast the soldier as a selfless servant of the U.S. armed forces. "He is a soldier's soldier. He did not want to go over there but he did what he was told. He has never said anything about 'poor little me', which I get from my clients' way too often. His first questions were about the safety and security of his family."

He added that Bales may speak to his wife on the phone Tuesday night, for the first time since the incident. On Monday, Bales' wife, Karilyn, appealed for peace and understanding.

Browne sought to downplay the effect of Bales' financial problems, which include an abandoned property in the Seattle area and a $1.3 million fine from his time as a securities broker.

"Sure he has financial problems. You don't go kill women and children because you have financial problems," said Browne.

Browne added that he has received hundreds of emails, including from some generals and other military figures, who wished him luck in the case.

Earlier in the day, speaking to Reuters, Browne described his time with Bales at the Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, facility as "debriefings" and a time of "getting him to trust me." He was speaking at his nearby hotel in Lansing, Kansas.

Browne said he was leaving Kansas but his legal team would continue to meet with Bales this week.

(Reporting By Kevin Murphy; Writing by Bill Rigby; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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