Hearing Begins for Soldier Accused in Afghan Massacre Robert Bales appeared in court today By Evann Gastaldo, Newser Staff Posted Nov 5, 2012 12:51 PM CST 30 comments Comments In this Aug. 23, 2011, file photo, Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System photo, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales participates in an exercise at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. (AP Photo/DVIDS, Spc. Ryan Hallock, File) (Newser) – Robert Bales, the US soldier accused of slipping away from his outpost and slaughtering 16 Afghan civilians in March, made his first appearance in a military courtroom today for the beginning of his preliminary hearing, after which an investigative officer will recommend whether the case should proceed to a court-martial. "This hearing is important for all of us in terms of learning what the government can actually prove," said his attorney. Asked if he understood his rights, Bales responded, "Sir, yes, sir," the AP reports. His lawyers have said he does not remember anything from the time of the attacks, in which nine children died, and have also noted that a traumatic incident during an earlier tour in Iraq caused him to suffer from "tremendous depression." Video testimony from as many as 15 Afghan witnesses will be included in the hearing, but Bales himself will not make a statement. In addition to 16 counts of premeditated murder, he faces charges of attempted murder, assault, and steroid use.