US Army Charges Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Former Taliban Captive In Risk Of Life Sentence

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IN PHOTO: U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Berghdal is pictured in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Army and received by Reuters on May 31, 2014. Bergdahl, who had been held for nearly five years by Afghan militants, was handed over to U.S. Special Operations forces in Afghanistan on May 31, 2014 in a dramatic swap for five Taliban detainees who will be handed over from Guantanamo Bay prison to Qatar. REUTERS/U.S. Army/Handout via Reuters

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was charged on Wednesday with desertion and misbehaving before the enemy. Bergdahl spent five years in captivity under the Taliban-aligned Haqqani network in Afghanistan.

U.S. Army officials announced the charges at Fort Bragg, N.C. the 28-year-old was earlier handed a charge sheet. Bergdahl is going to face a preliminary Article 32 hearing. The U.S. Army took 10 months since Bergdahl’s release to decide if he should be charged. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command, authorised the charges against the U.S. soldier.

Bergdahl became a part of a major political controversy after he had been released in May 2014. The release was a part of a prisoner exchange. Five Taliban members at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre were released in exchange of the U.S. soldier.

According to critics, it was illegal for U.S. President Barack Obama to authorise the release of the Taliban detainees without discussing the issue with Congress. An independent review by the Government Accountability Office seconded the critics’ view.

Bergdahl’s defence team alleged that it had not yet been given access to the contents of an Army investigation launched in 2014. The investigation was launched to look into Bergdahl’s disappearance in 2009. “We ask that all Americans continue to withhold judgment until the facts of the case emerge,” Bergdahl’s lawyers said in a statement, “We also ask that government officials refrain from leaking information or engaging in other conduct that endangers our client’s right to a fair trial.”

While the Army said in a statement that the misbehaviour charge may pose a potential life sentence, legal analysts argued that Bergdahl was likely to reach an agreement to get a lighter punishment. Bergdahl’s co-soldiers claimed that the U.S. soldier had abandoned his pose in Afghanistan. According to them, the search for the disappeared soldier put other troops at risk. The search for Bergdahl diverted resources from other units as well, they said.

Bergdahl's former platoon mate Cody Full believes that the Army did the right thing by charging him. "You sign your name to serve your country," the 26-year-old said, "No matter what you're supposed to fill that oath."

Contact the writer: s.mukhopadhyay@ibtimes.com.au

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