WASHINGTON — U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will face a military court on charges of desertion and endangering fellow soldiers, the U.S. Army announced Monday.
Gen. Robert Abrams, the commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, ordered the court-martial on Monday, breaking with the U.S. military officer overseeing Bergdahl’s preliminary hearing who recommended that Bergdahl be referred to a special court-martial and face no jail time.
Abrams on Monday ordered Bergdahl’s case to a general court-martial, which means Bergdahl could face life imprisonment if convicted of “misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place.”
Bergdahl disappeared from his base in Afghanistan in June 2009 and was held in captivity by the Taliban until the U.S. released five Taliban detainees in a controversial exchange for Bergdahl in May 2014. Six U.S. troops died in the months following Bergdahl’s disappearance during missions partly aimed at finding and rescuing him.
Bergdahl’s defense attorney, Eugene Fidell, slammed the decision in a statement Monday and said that he “had hoped the case would not go in this direction.”
“We will continue to defend Sgt. Bergdahl as the case proceeds,” Fidell said in the statement, noting that Abrams “did not follow the advice of the preliminary hearing officer who heard witnesses.”
The date of the arraignment hearing at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, will be announced at a later time.
Lt. Col. Mark Visger, the Army investigator who led the preliminary hearing into the charges Bergdahl faces, recommended against Bergdahl facing any jail time in October.
And Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, who led the investigation into Bergdahl’s actions in Afghanistan, testified in September that jail time would be “inappropriate” and said he did not find “any evidence to corroborate the reporting that Bergdahl was … sympathetic to the Taliban.”
Fidell told CNN’s Martin Savidge that Bergdahl was notified in person by his company commander of the decision concerning the court-martial on Monday. Fidell would not indicate what Bergdahl’s reaction was to the news.