Bowe Bergdahl faces charges of desertion, misbehaviour

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held captive by the Taliban for five years and freed in exchange for five detainees in Guantanamo Bay, will face charges of desertion and misbehaviour before the enemy in a general court-martial, the Army announced on Monday.

See Full Article

If convicted, Bergdahl could get life in prison on the misbehaviour charge and up to five years for desertion. He also could be dishonourably discharged, reduced in rank and made to forfeit all pay.

Bergdahl, 29, of Hailey, Idaho, walked off his post in eastern Afghanistan's Paktika province on June 30, 2009. He was released in the prisoner swap in late May 2014 that touched off a firestorm of criticism, with some in Congress accusing President Barack Obama of jeopardizing the safety of a nation for a deserter.

A date for an arraignment hearing at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, will be announced later.

Bergdahl's 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.

Lt. Col. Mark Visger had recommended that Bergdahl's case be referred to a special court martial, which is a misdemeanour-level forum. That limits the maximum punishment to reduction in rank, a bad-conduct discharge and a term of up to a year in prison.

The U.S. Army Forces Command charged Bergdahl on March 25 with "desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty" and "misbehaviour before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place."

Misbehaviour before the enemy was used hundreds of times during World War II, but scholars say its use appears to have dwindled in conflicts since then. Legal databases and media accounts turn up only a few misbehaviour cases since 2001 when fighting began in Afghanistan, followed by Iraq less than two years later. By contrast, statistics show the U.S. Army prosecuted about 1,900 desertion cases between 2001 and the end of 2014.

Fidell has argued his client is being charged twice for the same action, saying in a previous television interview that "it's unfortunate that someone got creative in drafting the charge sheet and figured out two ways to charge the same thing."

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. In October, Trump called Bergdahl a "traitor, a no-good traitor, who should have been executed."

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 former Taliban leaders for Bergdahl.

Fidell pointed to the fifth page of the report that said the committee would remain abreast of the disciplinary process and ensure that "Sgt. Bergdahl's behaviour is adjudicated as required." Fidell said he read that as a call to "hammer" Bergdahl for his actions.

Bergdahl hasn't spoken publicly about his decision to walk away from his post or his subsequent five-year imprisonment by the Taliban and the prisoner swap in May 2014 that secured his return to the United States. But during the past several months, he spoke extensively with screenwriter Mark Boal, who shared about 25 hours of the recorded interviews with Sarah Koenig for her popular podcast, "Serial."

Bergdahl says in the interviews that he walked off his base to cause a crisis that would catch the attention of military brass. He wanted to warn them about what he believed were serious problems with leadership in his unit. And he wanted to prove himself as a real-life action hero, like someone out of a movie.

"As a private first-class, nobody is going to listen to me," Bergdahl says in the first episode of the podcast, released Thursday. "No one is going to take me serious that an investigation needs to be put underway."

Bergdahl acknowledges his motives weren't entirely idealistic.

"I was trying to prove to myself, I was trying to prove to the world, to anybody who used to know me ... I was capable of being what I appeared to be," Bergdahl says. "I had this fantastic idea that I was going to prove to the world I was the real thing."

He also discusses the psychological torment of being held captive for years.

"How do I explain to a person that just standing in an empty dark room hurts?" Bergdahl recounts. "A person asked me, 'Why does it hurt? Does your body hurt?' Yes, your body hurts, but it's more than that. It's mental, like, almost confused. ... I would wake up not even remembering what I was."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • French intelligence blames sarin attack on Assad forces

    World News CBC News
    French intelligence has concluded that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad carried out a sarin nerve gas attack on April 4 in northern Syria and that Assad or members of his inner circle ordered the strike, a declassified report showed. Source
  • Thai woman doesn't blame Facebook after 11-month-old daughter's killing

    World News CTV News
    PHUKET, Thailand -- The wife of a Thai man who hanged their 11-month-old daughter on Facebook Live said Wednesday her husband is the only person to blame and she bears no anger toward the social media site or the users who shared the horrific video. Source
  • PQ wants Jean Charest to appear before committee amid corruption report

    Canada News CTV News
    QUEBEC -- The Opposition Parti Quebecois wants former premier Jean Charest to appear before a legislature committee amid reports the province's anti-corruption unit is investigating him. The TVA network and Le Journal de Montreal reported the unit is looking into whether engineering and construction firms contributed to the Quebec Liberals between 2003 and 2013 in return for contracts and subsidies from the Charest government. Source
  • Woman stuck on crane; rescue underway

    Canada News CTV News
    A daring rescue operation is underway in downtown Toronto this morning after a woman became stuck atop a construction crane overnight. The woman is approximately 12 storeys up on a piece of machinery at a construction site. Source
  • Giant rabbit dies on United flight

    World News CBC News
    ?United Airlines is investigating a report that a giant rabbit died on one of its transatlantic flights. Distraught breeder Annette Edwards from Worcestershire in central England told The Associated Press by phone Wednesday that Simon, a 10-month-old, 90-centimetre-long continental rabbit, had a vet check shortly before travelling from London's Heathrow Airport to Chicago's O'Hare airport. Source
  • Hong Kong police arrest 2 young legislators who previously stage protest

    World News CBC News
    Hong Kong police on Wednesday arrested two pro-independence lawmakers who were disqualified in a dispute over their oaths, in the latest round of legal action against activists involved in the Chinese territory's pro-democracy movement. Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching of the Youngspiration party were arrested and questioned at a police station for several hours before being released on bail. Source
  • U.S. Navy fires warning flare at Iran vessel in Persian Gulf

    World News CTV News
    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- A U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer fired a warning flare toward an Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessel coming near it in the Persian Gulf, an American official said on Wednesday, the latest tense naval encounter between the two countries. Source
  • It's Trudeau's move after Trump goes from tough talk to action with lumber duties: Chris Hall

    Canada News CBC News
    Donald Trump is proving, once again, to be a most unpredictable partner. He can talk about how much he values Canada one day, and then brand this valued neighbour a "disgrace" for the simple reason that he sees a political advantage in doing so back home. Source
  • Underground economy players impervious to CRA's 'nudge' experiment

    Canada News CBC News
    An experiment using "nudge" letters to coax Canadians in the underground economy to pay their taxes has flopped, highlighting the limits of this new approach to changing citizen behaviour. "Nudge" economics is the practice of encouraging people to make desired choices through suggestion rather than by threat of penalty or sanction. Source
  • Politicians meddle with real estate — but would Canadians tolerate intervention in other markets?

    Canada News CBC News
    There's a difference between housing and real estate. Housing is where we live; real estate is an investment. It's a pedantic but critical distinction. In all the breathless debates over housing bubbles and policy options, we look primarily at the investment. Source