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Former Taliban prisoner Bowe Bergdahl to face US court martial

The former Taliban prisoner charged with desertion will face a court martial, his lawyer says. Bowe Bergdahl was the center of a controversial prisoner swap last year in Afghanistan.

Bowe Bergdahl, the US Army sergeant who was released after five years of captivity in Afghanistan last year, was referred on Monday for trial by a general court-martial.

The decision went against a recommendation made in October by an army officer overseeing the case, saying Bergdahl shouldn't face jail time.

"The charges against Sergeant Bergdahl have today been referred for trial by a general court-martial," Bergdahl's attorney, Eugene Fidell, said in a statement. "I had hoped the case would not go in this direction."

Bergdahl, who was captured by the Taliban after leaving his post in Afghanistan in June 2009, was charged with desertion following his release from captivity in the summer of 2014. His release was engineered by the Obama Administration as part of a controversial prisoner swap. As a result, Bergdahl became a public enemy for many in Washington, especially Republicans, who accused the 29-year-old of possibly collaborating with the Taliban.

Scrutiny intensifies

Bergdahl has also been charged with misbehavior. If convicted on that more serious charge, the sergeant - whose case is currently the subject of the popular true-crime podcast "Serial" - could face up to life in prison. The date of the arraignment hearing will be announced later.

Lawyer Fidell also on Monday asked that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump "cease his prejudicial months-long campaign of defamation against our client," a reference to Trump calling the former POW a traitor during his campaign. Fidell also criticized the House and Senate Armed Services committees, which last week issued a 98-page report saying that the Obama administration's decision to swap the five Taliban detainees for Bergdahl was wrong. He asked the committees to avoid further statements "that prejudice our client's right to a fair trial."

blc/msh (Reuters, AP)

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