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Evidence in massacre hidden, lawyer says

SEATTLE - The attorney for the American soldier accused of killing 17 Afghan civilians said Friday that the US government is “hiding evidence’’ from the defense team.

John Henry Browne said that members of the defense team in Afghanistan were told they would have access to witnesses at a hospital, but later found the people had been released.

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He also said the federal government has not surrendered files to the defense team representing Army Staff Sergeant 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 return a call seeking comment on Browne’s allegations.

Bales faces 17 counts of premeditated murder. He was being held at a 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.

The prosecution team interviewed the civilians, but the defense team said they were unable to, after the people were released and no contact information was provided.

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