Bowe Bergdahl, the Army sergeant who deserted his post in the Patika province of Afghanistan in 2009 and was rescued after five years in Taliban captivity, will face a court-martial for the charges brought against him, military sources said on Monday.
According to The New York Times, the court-martial, essentially a military court that holds members of the armed forces to military laws rather than civilian ones, could mean a stiffer punishment for Bergdahl—including a life sentence. From the Times:
Yet Monday’s decision rejecting that recommendation means that Sergeant Bergdahl now faces a maximum five-year penalty if ultimately convicted by a military jury of desertion as well as potential life imprisonment on the more serious charge of misbehavior before the enemy, which in this case means endangering the troops who were sent to search for him after he disappeared.
The decision was handed down by Gen. Robert B. Abrams, head of Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, N.C. Initially, Bergdahl’s lawyer had asked for a “special court-martial,” in which a year of prison would be the maximum punishment. Monday’s decision ruled that out.
Bergdahl’s story has become a hot-button political issue, with many, particularly Republicans, citing his desertion a symptom of weak foreign policy on the part of the Obama administration. Presidential candidate went so far as to call for the sergeant to be executed.
Bergdahl, whose story grabbed the attention of “Serial” creator Sarah Koenig for the podcast’s second season, currently works in a clerical position at the Army’s Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston. A date has not yet been set for his next court hearing.