Who is Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl?
The 29-year-old Idaho native is a U.S. Army sergeant who was captured by the Taliban in June 2009 after vanishing from his post and leaving a note about his disillusionment with the Army and the war in Afghanistan. The Taliban held him as a prisoner of war for five years, until President Obama negotiated his release in May of 2014, in exchange for five Taliban leaders held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
What has Bergdahl been doing over the last several months?
When he first arrived back in the U.S., Bergdahl was treated at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Shortly after he returned, the Army began an investigation into Bergdahl’s disappearance from his unit in Afghanistan. He was placed in a desk job at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio in July 2014. In March 2015, the Army charged Bergdahl with desertion and misbehavior.
What does the latest hearing mean?
On Thursday in Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, the U.S. Army is holding what is called an Article 32 hearing to determine whether Bergdahl should face a court martial for his actions. Bergdahl was charged in March with “misbehavior before the enemy” under an arcane and not often used article in the Uniform Code of Military Justice that penalizes cowardly conduct in front of the enemy, including running away. The prosecution argues that Bergdahl deserted his unit voluntarily while deployed in Afghanistan in June of 2009. Bergdahl’s former fellow soldiers have alleged that members of Bergdahl’s platoon died looking for him.
In the hearing Thursday, Bergdahl’s attorneys, including lead attorney Eugine Fidell, will be arguing that he has already suffered enough punishment in his years as a prisoner, according to the Associated Press. The hearing will also include details of what led to his disappearance from his unit.
Military prosecutors have not commented publicly on the hearing.
What happens next?
In court, Bergdahl’s commanding officer Capt. John Billings testified to his reaction upon realizing that Bergdahl had disappeared, saying he felt “shock, absolute utter disbelief that I couldn’t find one of my own men,” reported the AP. Military prosecutor Maj. Margaret Kurz alleged that Bergdahl had been planning his desertion for weeks and there was enough evidence to justify a military trial.
The hearing, which could go on for days, will produce a report that will be sent to Gen. Robert Adams, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Forces command, who will decide whether the case should go to a court martial. If it does go to a court martial, and Bergdahl is found guilty, then he could face life in prison, according to the AP.