U.S. Sgt. Bergdahl to face court-martial for desertion and misbehavior

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U.S. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held by the Taliban for nearly five years before his release as part of a controversial prisoner exchange, will face court-martial on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, the U.S. Army says.

“The charges against Sgt. Bergdahl have today been referred for trial by a general court-martial. The convening authority did not follow the advise of the preliminary hearing officer who heard the witnesses,” said Eugene Fidell, Bergdahl’s attorney. “Lt. Colonel Rosenblatt, Captain Foster and I had hoped the case would not go in this direction. We will continue to defend Sgt. Bergdahl as the case proceeds.”

The U.S. Army confirmed that Bergdahl, who is 29, will face court-martial on two charges; desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. He faces up to life in prison if convicted of the second charge.

Bergdahl disappeared from Combat Outpost Mest-Malak in the Afghan province of Paktika on June 30, 2009, and later appeared in a video released by the Taliban. A subsequent investigation by the U.S. Army concluded that Bergdahl had left the base of his own free will without authorization before being captured by the Taliban. Bergdahl was held until May 2014, when President Barack Obama authorized the release of five Taliban commanders who were imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay to secure Bergdahl’s freedom.

Obama’s decision to release five Taliban commanders in exchange for Bergdahl incited a wave of controversy in the United States, with critics calling Bergdahl a deserter who endangered the lives of his colleagues who were attempting to find him. A photo surfaced after Bergdahl’s release that showed him standing next to a senior Taliban leader, who could be seen smiling while holding his arm around Bergdahl.

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