Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl to face hearing for desertion charges


HOUSTON (AP) — A hearing to decide if Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl should face a military trial for leaving his post in Afghanistan begins Thursday, proceedings that his lead lawyer says will reveal details of what led to his 2009 disappearance.

Legal experts expect Bergdahl’s lawyers to argue during the hearing that his years of being held captive by the Taliban were punishment enough. The hearing to determine if he will face a court-martial is taking place at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, where Bergdahl has been stationed since returning to the U.S. last year.

Before disappearing from his post in southeastern Afghanistan on June 30, 2009, Bergdahl had expressed opposition to the war in general and misgivings about his own role in it.

Related: Yale lecturer representing Bergdahl in desertion case

His lead attorney, Eugene Fidell, has cited an Army investigation that determined Bergdahl left his post, but not the Army, and that his “specific intent was to bring what he thought were disturbing circumstances to the attention of the nearest general officer.”

Fidell said he plans to call witnesses, but he declined to say whether Bergdahl would be among them or to disclose further details about his strategy.

Military prosecutors declined to discuss the hearing.

In this image taken from video obtained from Voice Of Jihad Website, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, sits in a vehicle guarded by the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan. The Taliban on Wednesday, June 4, 2014 released a video showing the handover of Bergdahl to U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan, touting the swap of the American soldier for five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo as a significant achievement for the insurgents. (AP Photo/Voice Of Jihad Website via AP video)
In this image taken from video obtained from Voice Of Jihad Website, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, sits in a vehicle guarded by the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Voice Of Jihad Website via AP video)

Officials say the Taliban captured Bergdahl after he left his post. He remained a prisoner for five years before being released in an exchange for five Taliban commanders being held at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The 29-year-old was charged in March with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. If convicted of the misbehavior charge, he could face up to life in a military prison. He could also be dishonorably discharged, reduced in rank and made to forfeit all pay.

Related: Official: US military to charge Bergdahl with desertion

Some members of Bergdahl’s former unit have called for serious punishment, alleging that some service members died looking for him.

While the Pentagon has said there is no evidence anyone died searching for Bergdahl, legal experts say the misbehavior charge allows authorities to allege his actions put soldiers who searched for him in harm’s way.

Fidell has expressed concern that negative publicity that has been highly critical of Bergdahl could influence how the case is resolved. The Republican party and some Democrats have long criticized the prisoner swap as politically motivated and a flagrant violation of U.S. policy against negotiating with terrorists.

The hearing will result in a report that will be forwarded to Gen. Robert Abrams, the commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command. Abrams will decide whether the case should be referred to a court-martial or is resolved in another manner.

___

Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter at https://twitter.com/juanlozano70

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

WTNH NEWS8 provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Also, you can now block any inappropriate user by simple selecting the drop down menu on the right of any comment and selection "Block User" from there.

1 thought on “Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl to face hearing for desertion charges

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s