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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Bergdahl Documents Kept Under Wraps

(CN) - A military appellate court on Thursday rejected a request from Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's defense team to release documents detailing the 2014 investigation into the soldier's disappearance and capture.

Bergdahl's attorneys asked the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals to release his 371-page sworn statement about his years in captivity, and the executive summary of Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl's two-month-long investigation.

Both documents are unclassified and were submitted into evidence at last month's Article 32 hearing, according to defense attorney Eugene Fidell.

But the military court refused to budge, determining that it lacked jurisdiction and that the request might be more appropriately addressed through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The court also suggested a military judge "will also be far better positioned to consider to matter" if the case moved forward to court-martial.

Bergdahl, 29, was charged in March with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy for walking away from his post in Afghanistan's Paktika province. Within hours of his disappearance in the early morning of June 30, 2009, the Taliban-linked Haqqani network captured him.

He was held prisoner for five years, wasting away in brutal conditions that almost killed him and released only when the White House agreed to swap five Taliban detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay.

Details of his disappearance, capture and torture were revealed during a two-day Article 32 hearing in September. The hearing is similar to a grand jury proceeding in civilian court that is open to the public and was held at the San Antonio military base where Bergdahl has been on active duty since returning last year to the United States.

Lt. Col. Mark A. Visger, Bergdahl's preliminary hearing officer, submitted his recommendation Monday to the special court-martial convening authority in North Carolina but it remains confidential.

"Col. Visger's report is unclassified and we believe it should be made public immediately," Fidell said in a statement.

A copy of Visger's report was provided to the defense but Fidell declined to comment further on it "out of respect for the Army's process."

Bergdahl faces up to 5 years for desertion and up to life in a military prison for misbehavior before the enemy if the case proceeds to court-martial and he's found guilty.

A transcript of the hearing was released Oct. 2.

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