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US soldier Bergdahl held by Taliban charged with desertion

US Army soldier Bowe Robert Bergdahl, who was freed last year after being held by the Taliban for five years, was formally charged with desertion and misbehaviour before the enemy on Wednesday, US officials said.

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He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted. An initial hearing is set for April 22, his lawyer said.

Bergdahl, 28, was released in June last year in exchange for the release of five Afghan detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

A former military official told the New York Times that Bergdahl slipped away from his base near the Afghan border with Pakistan, leaving a note saying he had become disillusioned with the army and the war in Afghanistan.

A US Army investigation conducted in the months after Bergdahl’s disappearance found that he left his post deliberately, an official familiar with the probe told CNN soon after his release.

Bergdahl disappeared on June 30, 2009, and was the first US soldier to be captured in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion of 2001.

The Taliban released a video of Bergdahl some six months after his capture. The video features several clips of Bergdahl, 23 at the time, including one where he is in front of a carpet wearing combat fatigues, a helmet and sunglasses, and another where he is seen in grey robes with a shaved head.

"I'm afraid to tell you that this war has slipped from our fingers and it's just going to be our next Vietnam unless the American people stand up and stop all this nonsense," he said.

US President Barack Obama came under fire from Republicans who said the prisoner swap would encourage militants to try to take American soldiers or diplomats hostage.

The Obama administration has defended the deal as an attempt to save the life of a captured soldier’s whose health was thought to be deteriorating.

But the White House later apologised for not informing lawmakers of the prisoner exchange.

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, said the White House broke US law when it failed to inform Congress of the swap.

"It comes with some surprise and dismay that the transfers went ahead with no consultation, totally not following the law," she told reporters.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

 

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