November 16, 2018

Former U.S. war prisoner Bergdahl faces desertion charges

Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, a former Taliban prisoner in Afghanistan who was released last summer in a controversial prisoner exchange, was charged on Wednesday with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, his attorney said.

Eugene Fidell, a lecturer at Yale Law School, said the Army had scheduled an Article 32 hearing, similar to a preliminary hearing in civilian law, for April 22 in San Antonio, Texas, where Bergdahl is based. The hearing will determine if there is enough evidence to proceed with a general court martial.

The confirmation of charges against Bergdahl came shortly after U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg in North Carolina announced that it would provide an update on the Bergdahl case, which has been undergoing a review after questions were raised about the circumstances of his capture by the Taliban.

The update is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. EDT on Wednesday.

The case has been under review by General Mark Milley, head of U.S. Army Forces Command, who was asked to look at the circumstance surrounding Bergdahl's capture in eastern Afghanistan in 2009.

Bergdahl disappeared from his unit early one morning after doing guard duty. It quickly became apparent he was missing when he failed to show up for roll call, but his gun, ammunition and body armor had been left behind.

Officials said Milley could decide anything from recommending no action, to non-judicial punishment to recommending criminal charges and a court martial.

Bergdahl was handed over to U.S. special operations forces in Afghanistan last summer after the Obama administration agreed to send five Taliban leaders held at Guantanamo military prison to Qatar, where they were required to remain for a year.

An initial wave of euphoria over Bergdahl's release was followed by a backlash among U.S. lawmakers angry because they were not given 30 days notice before the transfer of the Guantanamo prisoners, as required by law. Some of Bergdahl's former Army comrades said they believe he deserted his post.