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Deserter Or Victim? Ex-Prisoner Of Taliban Heads To Court

File photo of Bowe Bergdahl at his graduation from basic training with the Army.
Bergdahl family
File photo of Bowe Bergdahl at his graduation from basic training with the Army.

U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl faces a hearing Thursday to determine whether he’ll be court-martialed on a desertion charge.

Bergdahl, originally from Hailey, Idaho, left his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was captured by the Taliban. He was held for five years before being released in 2014 in a controversial exchange for five Taliban operatives held at Guantanamo Bay.

The case has become highly politicized.

Seattle civilian military defense attorney Stephen Carpenter says desertion will be tough to prove because the government must show evidence that Bergdahl had no intention of returning to his unit.

"He went off and he obviously met up with these Taliban people and was subjected to incarceration,” Carpenter said. “I mean, he was in a cage. He wasn’t going anywhere. So it’s really stretching it for the government to say that when he left he never intended to come back because he had no way of coming back."

Bergdahl is also charged with misbehavior before the enemy – a charge so rare it hasn’t been levied by the U.S. military since World War II. If Bergdahl is ultimately found guilty of it, he could go to prison for life.

The preliminary hearing Thursday at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, is known as an Article 32. It will determine if there is enough evidence to merit a full court-martial.

That decision could take months.

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