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Thursday 22 March 2018

Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl to face desertion charge in court martial

Bowe Bergdahl faces a charge of desertion in a general court martial
Bowe Bergdahl faces a charge of desertion in a general court martial

A US Army sergeant who was released by the Taliban in exchange for five former leaders of the militant group held at Guantanamo Bay will face a charge of desertion in a general court martial, his lawyer said.

Bowe Bergdahl's lawyer Eugene Fidell said the convening authority - a high-ranking officer charged with deciding whether evidence warrants a court martial - did not follow the advice of a preliminary hearing officer, who had recommended Bergdahl's case be moved to a special misdemeanour-level military court.

Bergdahl will also face a charge of misbehaviour before the enemy.

Mr Fidell said he had "hoped the case would not go in this direction".

Bergdahl walked off his post in Afghanistan on June 30 2009, and was captured by the Taliban and held for nearly five years.

Mr Fidell, a military justice expert who is also a visiting lecturer at Yale Law School, complained about political figures who have made derogatory statements about Bergdahl.

He asked that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump "cease his prejudicial months-long campaign of defamation against our client". Mr Fidell has previously complained about Mr Trump calling Bergdahl a traitor.

Mr Fidell also asked the House and Senate Armed Services committees to avoid further statements "that prejudice our client's right to a fair trial".

The House committee last week issued a 98-page report criticising the Obama administration's decision to swap the five Taliban detainees for Bergdahl.

Press Association

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