Bowe Bergdahl to be arraigned on military charges

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Bowe Bergdahl Arrives for Court Appearance


U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who spent five years as a Taliban prisoner after leaving his combat outpost in Afghanistan in 2009 to bring attention to alleged poor leadership, will be arraigned on Tuesday on charges spurred by his disappearance.

Bergdahl, 29, was ordered last week to face court-martial after being charged earlier this year with desertion and endangering U.S. troops, with the latter offense carrying a life sentence if he is convicted.

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His case has been controversial. Some soldiers resented the military resources devoted to searching for Bergdahl, and Republicans criticized the Obama administration for the deal that freed him in a prisoner swap with the Taliban in 2014.

Bergdahl is now stationed at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, near the hospital where he has been treated since his release from captivity.

He will be arraigned by a military judge at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. His lawyers could push to have the trial moved back to Texas, said Geoffrey Corn, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who teaches at the South Texas College of Law.

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Bowe Bergdahl to be arraigned on military charges
SAN ANTONIO, TX - JUNE 13: (From left) Colonel Bradley Poppen, Ph.D., Major General Joseph P. DiSalvo, and Colonel Ronald N. Wool deliver a press conference at the Fort Sam Houston Golf Course July 13, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas. They are reporting on Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, his return to the United States, and reintegration at Brooke Army Medical Center after being a prison of war under Taliban captivity. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 31: President Barack Obama walks with the parents of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Jani Bergdahl (L) and Bob Bergdahl (R) back to the Oval Office after making a statement regarding the release of Sgt. Bergdahl from captivity May 31, 2014 in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was held captive by militants for almost five years during the war in Afghanistan. (Photo by J.H. Owen-Pool/Getty Images)
Bob Bergdahl, the father of freed US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, speaks following the release of his son, US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 31, 2014 in Washington, DC. US President Barack Obama and the Bergdahl's spoke after the release of Bowe Bergdahl by the Taliban in Afghanistan.  MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
Supporters of freed prisoner of war US Army soldier Bowe Bergdahl including representatives of the ANSWER Coalition, CODEPINK and March Forward, rally in front of the White House in Washington, DC, June 10, 2014, to welcome Bergdahl home after 5-years of being held by the Taliban in Afghanistan. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 11: U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testifies before the House Armed Services Committee about the about the prisoner exchange that freed Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill June 11, 2014 in Washington, DC. The trade of Bergdahl for five senior Taliban officials has angered some members of Congress because they were not informed of the swap beforehand. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 11: U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel listens during a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee June 11, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held the hearing to examine the exchange of five Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay for the release of U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl who had been held for almost five years by the insurgents in Afghanistan. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
HAILEY, ID - JUNE 01: A sign announcing the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl sits in the window of the Hailey Paint and Supply store on Main Street June 1, 2014 in Hailey, Idaho. Sgt. Bergdahl was captured in Afghanistan in 2009 while serving with U.S. Armys 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment in Paktika Province. Yesterday he was released after a swap for 5 prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay was arranged. Bergdahl was considered the only U.S. prisoner of war held in Afghanistan. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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"Fort Bragg is one of the most combat-oriented bases in the country," Corn said. "So there will be a lot of combat veterans who will be very intensely interested in a case like this."

At the hearing on Tuesday, Bergdahl will be asked if he wants to be tried by a judge or a panel of military personnel serving as a jury.

Corn said he would not be surprised if a panel decides Bergdahl should not go to prison for his alleged military crimes.

"These are people who are able to sort out the difference between extremely aggravated offenses and offenses committed by people who just make really stupid decisions," Corn said.

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Bergdahl disappeared on June 30, 2009, from Combat Outpost Mest-Malak in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and was captured by Taliban forces who subjected him to torture and neglect.

He left his post to draw attention to "leadership failure" in his unit, Bergdahl said on the popular podcast Serial.

In ordering the court-martial, Army General Robert Abrams did not follow the recommendation of a preliminary hearing officer who, according to Bergdahl's lawyer, called for Bergdahl to face a proceeding that could impose a potential maximum penalty of a year in confinement.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, N.C.; Additional reporting by Jim Forsyth in San Antonio; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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