Bowe Bergdahl, the US Army Sergeant whom the Taliban held for five years after he deserted his Afghanistan outpost, would serve no prison time, a US military judge ruled. Bergdahl, however, was ordered to be dishonourably discharged from the Army as the judge yesterday ordered his rank to be slashed to private, and imposed a $10,000 fine on him.
US President Donald Trump, who had last year called for Bergdahl to be executed, labelling him a “traitor”, expressed his disappointment over the court decision. “The decision on Sergeant Bergdahl is a complete and total disgrace to our Country and to our Military,” Trump said in a tweet.
As part of the deal, Bergdahl would forfeit his pay of $1,000 for 10 months. Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan 2009 after he walked off the base. He was under Taliban captivity for five years before he was released under a prison swap by the then Obama Administration.
Bergdahl had faced up to life in prison after pleading guilty to charges of desertion and endangering his fellow troops.
Army judge Col. Jeffery Nance said Bergdahl will be dishonourably discharged and have his rank reduced to private. News reports said Bergdahl was tensed and shaking when he entered the court room.
After he pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehaviour before the Army on October 16, he faced life imprisonment. Prosecutors had sought 14 years of imprisonment for him.
Despite pleading guilty to misbehaviour before the enemy and desertion, Bowe Bergdahl will not serve any prison time for his misconduct in Afghanistan, said Senator Jim Inhofe.
“This is beyond disappointing, especially given that three service members were grievously and permanently wounded as a direct result of searching for Bergdahl,” he said.
“I am pleased his separation will be under dishonourable discharge conditions. His actions rightfully disqualify him from receiving the privileges he literally walked away from when he abandoned his fellow service members and his post. Under this discharge, Bergdahl will not have access to any veterans benefits,” the Senator said.
Congressman Ron DeSantis, Chairman of the National Security Subcommittee and Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy expressed his disappointment over the court verdict.
“Bowe Bergdahl deserted his unit and endangered the lives of his fellow soldiers. To receive a sentence of zero confinement will strike many Americans as an outrage and will lead many to question the efficacy of the military justice system,” he said.
The case had created ripples in the US political circles, with supporters calling Bergdahl a victim of the 16 year old Afghan war and detractors labelling him a turncoat whose action led to severe injuries of fellow soldiers in his unit on search missions for him.