U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is expected to plead guilty this month to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy after being exchanged by the previous administration for five high-risk Taliban commanders in 2014.
By pleading guilty, Bergdahl will avoid facing a trial for abandoning his Afghan post in 2009, reports the Associated Press (AP), citing two unnamed sources.
Taliban terrorists reportedly kidnapped Bergdahl after he left his post and held him captive for about five years until the former U.S. president authorized the controversial exchange in 2014.
The sources told AP that American service members who were seriously injured searching for the alleged deserter would testify during sentencing, which is scheduled to start on October 23.
The decision [to plead guilty] by the 31-year-old Idaho native leaves open whether he will return to captivity for years — this time in a U.S. prison — or receive a lesser sentence that reflects the time the Taliban held him under brutal conditions. He says he had been caged, kept in darkness, beaten and chained to a bed.
Bergdahl is now facing up to five years on the desertion charge and life behind bars for misbehavior before the enemy.
Eugene Fidell, the sergeant’s attorney, Maj. Justin Oshana, who is prosecuting the case, and the U.S. Army refused to confirm whether or not Bergdahl is planning to enter a guilty plea, acknowledges AP.
“We continue to maintain careful respect for the military-judicial process, the rights of the accused and ensuring the case’s fairness and impartiality during this ongoing legal case,” Paul Boyce, an Army spokesman, told the news agency.
In May 2014, the United States exchanged Bergdahl for the infamous “Taliban Five” held at the American military prison in Guantánamo.
Some U.S. officials believe that the liberated Taliban jihadists have returned to terror activities after being released to Qatar as part of the exchange.
According to the House Intelligence Committee: “The five former detainees have participated in activities that threaten U.S. and coalition personnel and are counter to U.S. national security interests — not unlike their activities before they were detained on the battlefield.”
In June, Army Col. Jeffery R. Nance, the judge presiding over Bergdahl’s case, decided to allow testimony from U.S. troops who were wounded as they searched for him.
The decision has “strengthened prosecutors’ leverage to pursue stiffer punishment,” notes AP.
“Some of Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers want him held responsible for any harm suffered by those who went looking for him,” it adds. “The judge ruled a Navy SEAL and an Army National Guard sergeant wouldn’t have found themselves in separate firefights if they hadn’t been searching.”
Bergdahl’s defense has reportedly argued that the misbehavior before the enemy, the more serious charge that carries a life in prison sentence, is “too severe.”