Bowe Bergdahl: Military prosecutors, defense to present arguments on court martial

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(CNN) -- Should Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl face a military court martial?

That will be the question Thursday as arguments are presented on whether a court-martial should be initiated over his disappearance from a base in Afghanistan.

Bergdahl vanished in June 2009 after he deserted his unit, authorities said.

The incident set off a series of events that included his five-year capture by the Taliban. President Barack Obama later freed five members of the terror network held at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Bergdahl last year.

After his freedom, he returned to the United States as part of the controversial prisoner swap. In March this year, the military charged him with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

The Army Article 32 preliminary hearing will be held at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston in Texas.

5 Taliban detainees for Bergdahl

Despite backlash from fellow soldiers, Obama has hailed his safe return to the United States.

"Sgt. Bergdahl has missed birthdays and holidays and the simple moments with family and friends," the President said when the soldier returned.

But Bergdahl faces the prospect of never spending another birthday or holiday outside of prison.

If his case goes to court-martial and he is found guilty of misbehavior before the enemy, he faces a potential maximum penalty of life in prison.


A court martial would put the White House in a precarious situation. It has steadfastly defended the decision to recover him amid backlash from Republicans and some who served with him in Afghanistan.

At the time of his recovery, U.S. officials said Obama's national security team was unanimous in its support of the prisoner exchange that ultimately returned Bergdahl to the United States.

Concerns about his physical health prompted them to circumvent a requirement to notify Congress about pending prisoner releases, authorities said at the time.

Obama cited a "sacred rule" in attempting to rescue American servicemen and women, no matter the circumstances surrounding their capture.

"We still get an American soldier back if he's held in captivity. Period. Full stop. We don't condition that," he said at the time.

Some members of Bergdahl's unit have accused him of purposely abandoning his post before being taken captive in remote Afghanistan. Some suggested the U.S. effort to rescue him was misguided.

Allegations that he abandoned his post were well known before his rescue became public, though they hadn't yet been subject to the type of Army investigation that followed his return.

The White House has expressed no regret at the decision to swap the Idaho native with Taliban prisoners.