Bergdahl Attorneys Win Access to Classified Docs

     (CN) — A military appeals court agreed that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s legal team should be granted access to thousands of pages of classified documents to build up the soldier’s defense.
     The U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals on Thursday rejected a prosecution appeal seeking clarification and further scrutiny on a ruling that allowed defense attorneys access to classified material. The court also lifted a stay that has been in place since February, clearing the way for Bergdahl’s legal case to resume.
     “We disagree with the government’s interpretation and find that the military judge’s access order is in compliance,” Senior Judge Kenneth Tozzi wrote for a three-judge panel, in a ruling released Saturday night by defense attorney Eugene Fidell.
     Bergdahl, 30, is expected to face court-martial in a military courtroom at Fort Bragg, N.C., in August. He was charged in March 2015 with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy after allegedly walking away from his combat outpost in Afghanistan’s Paktika province.
     Bergdahl’s disappearance sparked a five-year search for answers while the Taliban held him prisoner in torturous conditions a military expert who debriefed Bergdahl described as the worst a U.S. prisoner of war has faced in the last 60 years.
     His release came only after the White House agreed to swap five Taliban detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay in a still-debated prisoner exchange.
     Army prosecutors argued that defense attorneys should have been ordered to obtain “original classification authority” approval on documents deemed classified before gaining access to them.
     They said in court filings that the military judge’s Feb. 2 ruling in favor of Bergdahl’s defense “was the first time the military directed the unauthorized disclosures of classified information.”
     But the Army appellate court found last week that the military judge did not abuse his discretion in his ruling allowing Bergdahl’s defense team access to classified information.
     “The military judge’s access order does not require the government to do anything contrary to law or regulation,” Tozzi wrote.
     Bergdahl faces up to five years for desertion and up to life in a military prison for misbehavior before the enemy.
     His next hearing is scheduled for May 17 at Fort Bragg.

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