Bergdahl could avoid US jail

The commanding general of US Army Forces Command, will ultimately decide whether Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl should be referred to a court-martial.

A US Army officer is recommending that Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl face a lower-level court martial and be spared the possibility of jail time for leaving his post in Afghanistan.

His defence lawyer Eugene Fidell said Lieutenant Colonel Mark Visger has decided Bergdahl's case should go to a military system similar to civilian courts that handle misdemeanour charges.

It limits the maximum punishment to reduction of rank, a bad conduct discharge and a short jail term, though that isn't being sought, Fidell said.

Military prosecutors charged Bergdahl in March with desertion and misbehaviour before the enemy, a charge that could carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban after leaving his post on June 30, 2009, and held until last year, when he was exchanged for five Taliban commanders. His commanding officers in Afghanistan say a 45-day search for Bergdahl put soldiers in danger.

The Obama administration's prisoner swap was sharply criticised by many Republicans and some Democrats, who said it was politically motivated and counter to the US policy against negotiating with terrorists.

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said that Bergdahl should have been executed for leaving his post in Afghanistan and called him a "no-good traitor".

Paul Boyce, a spokesman for the US Army's Force Command, released a statement Saturday that didn't confirm Visger's decision.

"As legal action is ongoing, we continue to maintain careful respect for the military-judicial process, the rights of the accused, and ensuring the case's fairness and impartiality," Boyce said.

General Robert Abrams, the commanding general of US Army Forces Command, will ultimately decide whether the case should be referred to a court-martial.

2 min read
Published 11 October 2015 at 9:17am
Source: AAP