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Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl Will Be Charged With Desertion, Lawyer Says

This photo provided by Eugene R. Fidell shows Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl preparing to be interviewed by Army investigators in August.
Eugene R. Fidell AP
This photo provided by Eugene R. Fidell shows Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl preparing to be interviewed by Army investigators in August.

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will face desertion charges, his lawyer tells NPR's David Welna.

Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban in 2009, after he walked off his military outpost in southeastern Afghanistan. In a controversial move and five years after his capture, the Obama administration cut a deal with the Taliban, securing Bergdahl's release in exchange for the release of five Taliban detainees who were being held at the Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba.

In December, the Pentagon referred Bergdahl's case to an Army general, who would determine whether he should be charged.

Bergdahl's lawyer, Eugene Fidell, said today at noon his client was told he would be charged with "desertion and misbehavior before the enemy."

There will be an Article 32 hearing on April 22 at Fort Sam Houston.

Fidell said he did not know if the military would take his time in captivity into account before handing down any decision about his client.

"I assume that anyone in a position of responsibility would understand that is an important mitigating factor," Fidell said.

The deal for Bergdahl's return was controversial politically, because the circumstances surrounding his disappearance have always been murky.

As we've reported: Some accounts had him captured during an attack on his post, others put him walking off his outpost during a counterinsurgency mission. An account in Rolling Stone implied that Bergdahl was "ashamed to even be American" and was defecting when he was captured.

Because of that lawmakers criticized the Obama administration for cutting a deal with the Taliban. The Government Accountability Office later found that the Pentagon broke the law during the course of the trade.

As we reported, first it found that the "Pentagon violated the Department of Defense Appropriations Act when it didn't give 30 days' notice to Congress about its plan to move the five Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay." And secondly, the $1 million used for the transfer "was paid for out of an account of already-appropriated funds – a violation of the Antideficiency Act."

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