Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl says he was tortured in the five years he was held captive by the Taliban, beaten with a copper cable as he spent months blindfolded and chained spread-eagle to a bed.
The 28-year-old soldier described his harsh treatment in Afghanistan in a letter released Thursday by his defense lawyer.
The Army charged Bergdahl with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy for leaving his post in June 2009. He was held captive by the Taliban and was freed last year in exchange for five Taliban commanders held prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Now he faces up to life in prison if convicted of the criminal charges.
In the letter, Bergdahl says he suffered from hunger, thirst, and serious infections from sores that developed where his hands and feet were bound to the bed.
Bergdahl is charged with misbehavior before the enemy, which carries a maximum life sentence. He is also charged with desertion, which carries a maximum of five years. He could also face a dishonorable discharge, reduction in rank and forfeiture of all his pay if convicted.
The charges are the latest development in a long and bitter debate over Bergdahl’s case.
They also underscore the military and political ramifications of his decision to leave his post after expressing misgivings about the US military’s role, as well as his own, in the Afghanistan war.
Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban and held by members of the Haqqani network, an insurgent group tied to the Taliban that operates both in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Some within the military have suggested that Bergdahl’s long capture was punishment enough, but others, including members of his former unit, have called for serious punishment, saying that other service members risked their lives – and several died – searching for him.
“He was a soldier. He deserted his post. If that’s what he’s convicted of, he needs to go to Fort Leavenworth for the rest of his life,” retired army serviceman Robert Gilford said.
The case will now go to an Article 32 hearing to be held at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
That proceeding is similar to an investigating jury. From there, it could be referred to a court-martial and go to trial.
A date for that hearing has yet to be announced.
Story by the Associated Press.