Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers in a shooting rampage, could face the death penalty if he is found guilty in a court-martial.
Photographer: Department of Defense Byline: Spc. Ryan Hallock
(CNN) -- A U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers in a shooting rampage could face the death penalty if found guilty in a court-martial.
The military has referred the case of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales to a court-martial authorized to consider the death penalty, according to a statement Wednesday.
Another six Afghans were wounded in the spree near a small U.S. base in Afghanistan's Kandahar province last March, the military said.
"The charges are merely accusations and the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty," the military emphasized in its statement.
"Nothing really justifies killing women and children in a noncombat situation," Bales' attorney, John Henry Browne, has said of the accusations. "But there may be explanations if that's true."
He also said Bales might have been suffering post-traumatic stress disorder.
Bales' wife, Karilyn, has called the accusations "completely out of character of the man I know and admire."
Afghan authorities have pushed for swift action.
"He committed a mass killing crime, and we would like the court in the United States to implement justice and punish him according to the crime," Ahmad Zia Syamak, a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, told CNN last month.
™ & © 2012 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.
Click here to see the latest mugshots in Palm Beach County
Click here to see the latest mugshots in St. Lucie County.
Get the latest updates, photos and video from the devastation in Moore, Okla. Also, see how to help.
Latest News Stories
A separate law states tuition goes up automatically by the rate of inflation i f there is no increase in the budget. That law, however, is silent on what happens if the governor vetoes the hike.