The U.S. Army sergeant is facing desertion charges after going missing from his base in Afghanistan in 2009 and subsequently being captured by the Taliban.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. soldier who spent five years in Taliban captivity before his release last year, will face a general court-martial on charges of desertion, his lawyer said Monday.
Bergdahl is facing a potential life term in prison after being charged in March with one count of desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty and one count of misbehavior before the enemy.
The sergeant went missing from his base in Afghanistan’s Paktika province on June 30, 2009, and was subsequently held by a Taliban-affiliated group until his release last year as part of a prisoner swap involving five senior Taliban figures.
In a statement, attorney Eugene Fidell said the Article 32 hearing — the military equivalent of a grand jury — on Monday referred the charges to a general court-martial.
In October, Lt. Col. Mark Visger, the officer in charge of the Article 32 hearing,recommended the charges be referred to a special lower court-martial and that Bergdahl be spared jail time or a punitive discharge from the Army.
“The convening authority did not follow the advice of the preliminary hearing officer who heard the witnesses,” Fidell said of Monday’s decision.
The desertion charge carries a potential sentence of five years in prison, while the misbehavior charge carries a potential life term. Bergdahl also faces a dishonorable discharge, a reduction to the lowest possible rank of E1, and total forfeiture of pay.
Fidell also called on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has called Bergdahl “a no-good traitor” who should be executed, to “cease his prejudicial months-long campaign of defamation.”
“We also ask that the House and Senate Armed Services Committees avoid any further statements or actions that prejudice our client’s right to a fair trial,” Fidell said on behalf of Bergdahl’s other two military attorneys.
Bergdahl’s story is the subject of the second season of the podcast Serial, which premiered last week.
In interviews aired on the podcast between Bergdahl and filmmaker Mark Boal, the soldier said he left his base in order to run to a nearby larger command center and raise concerns about the leadership within his unit.