Former US prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl asks Obama for pardon | News | DW | 03.12.2016
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Former US prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl asks Obama for pardon

US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, once held captive by the Taliban, has launched an appeal to avert a trial. Bergdahl's request comes shortly before President-elect Donald Trump takes office.

US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, charged with desertion after leaving his post in Afghanistan, is hoping to be granted leniency as Barack Obama heads into the final days of his presidency.

The White House and Justice Department both confirmed on Saturday they had received copies of Bergdahl's clemency request for a pardon. The sergeant faces charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, the last of which carries a possible sentence of life in prison.

Bergdahl, 30, walked off his post in 2009 and was subsequently captured by the Taliban, who held him prisoner for five years. The decision by the Obama administration to swap Bergdahl for five Taliban prisoners in May 2014 sparked outrage among many in Washington, who said the 45-day search for him put soldiers' lives at risk.

Obama was also criticized by officials for not giving Congress a 30-day notice before the exchange, which some officials said endangered the nation's security.

Concerns as Trump takes over

Bergdahl's appeal comes as President-elect Donald Trump prepares to take over from Obama in January. Trump has been a vociferous critic of Bergdahl, calling him a traitor during a July speech in Indiana and implying he should be executed.

"Remember the old days? A deserter, what happened?" Trump said. He then mimicked someone firing off a gun: "Bang."

Bergdahl's attorney, Eugene Fidell, has called Trump's comments "appalling,"and the sergeant's defense team has compiled a "Trump Defamation Log" to keep track of all the president-elect's comments. Fidell has also claimed that now that Trump will soon be president, a fair trial for Bergdahl is impossible.

The White House provided no further comment on the status of Bergdahl's request.

blc/cmk (AP, Reuters)

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