US Army sergeant to face desertion charge in court-martial

FILE - This undated file image provided by the U.S. Army shows Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. The attorney for Bergdahl, who was released in exchange for five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay, says the soldier's case has been referred for trial by a general court-martial. (AP Photo/U.S. Army, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was released by the Taliban in exchange for five former leaders of the militant group held in Guantanamo Bay, will face charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy in a general court-martial, the U.S. soldier’s attorney said Monday.

Attorney 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. The officer had recommended that Bergdahl’s case be moved to a special misdemeanor-level military court.

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.

Separately, 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.

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

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 criticizing the Obama administration’s decision to swap the five Taliban detainees for Bergdahl.

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