25 Mar 2015

Bowe Bergdahl: US soldier could face life in prison

Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl could face life in prison after being charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy following his disappearance from an Afghan outpost in 2009.

The US soldier spent five years in Taliban captivity before being dramatically rescued in a prisoner-swap in June last year.

In a statement, a US army spokesman said Bowe Bergdahl had been formally charged misbehaviour before the enemy, which carries a maximum life sentence.

Bergdahl was also charged with desertion, which carries a maximum sentence of five years.

Prisoner swap

Republican Senator John McCain, who was critical of the prisoner swap last year said the announcement was “an important step in the military justice process towards determining the accountability of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.”

The US soldier was released after the White House agreed a deal, brokered by the Qatari government, to release five Taliban militants from Guantanamo bay.

The Taliban prisoners were described as the “the hardest of hard core” by Senator John McCain.

A Taliban video of the prisoner exchange showed Bergdahl seemingly dazed and anxious about unfolding events.

Read more: Taliban releases video of Bowe Bergdahl handover

Last year, a rally in Bergdahl’s hometown of Hailey, Idaho, celebrating his return to the US was cancelled after claims emerged he had walked off his military base.

US defence secretary Chuck Hagel defended the deal, insisting that the US “didn’t negotiate with terrorists.”

There was also criticism from then Afghan president Hamid Karzai, who was angry at the lack of progress in the peace process in comparison to the prisoner exchange.

Bergdahl’s case now goes to an Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a grand jury. From there, it could be referred to a court-martial and go to trial.