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Bowe Bergdahl Charged With Desertion

The 28-year-old U.S. soldier spent five years in captivity in Afghanistan.

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Updated on

Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. soldier who spent five years in captivity in Afghanistan, was charged Wednesday with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, Army officials announced.

The charges were announced by Col. Daniel King at a press conference at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Bergdahl was charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice with one count of desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty and one count of misbehavior before the enemy.

The desertion charge carries a potential sentence of five years in prison, while the misbehavior charge carries a potential life term. Bergdahl also faces a dishonorable discharge, a reduction to the lowest possible rank of E1, and total forfeiture of pay.

Bergdahl's lawyer, Eugene Fidell, told the Washington Post that the 28-year-old was handed a charge sheet on Tuesday.

The charges have been "preferred" to what's known as an "Article 32 investigation," the military equivalent of a grand jury in which an investigating officer reviews evidence and determines whether to recommend charges for court-martial proceedings.

The sergeant went missing from his base in Afghanistan's Paktika province on June 30, 2009, and was subsequently held by a Taliban-affiliated group until his release last year as part of a prisoner swap deal involving five senior Taliban figures.

He was handed over by Taliban fighters in eastern Afghanistan on May 31, 2014.

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The deal to free Bergdahl was heavily criticized by some Republicans, while some former members of his battalion called him a deserter.

"Bergdahl was a deserter, and soldiers from his own unit died trying to track him down," Nathan Bradley Bethea, a former member of Bergdahl's battalion, wrote for the Daily Beast.

A 2010 Pentagon investigation into his disappearance found Bergdahl had walked away from his post, but stopped short of concluding that he was a deserter.

Upon his release, Bergdahl was transferred to a U.S. army facility to receive physical and psychological treatment.

David Mack is a reporter and weekend editor for BuzzFeed News in New York.

Contact David Mack at david.mack@buzzfeed.com.

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