News Column

Petition Calls for Prosecution of Freed Soldier

June 3, 2014

Sky News US Team

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with Taliban fighters (Sky News)
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with Taliban fighters (Sky News)

The circumstances surrounding Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's capture nearly five years ago has led some to call for the freed US soldier to face charges in military court.

A petition posted on the White House website says the 28-year-old should be punished over allegations that he was deserting his post in Afghanistan when Taliban forces captured him in 2009.

It accuses Sgt Bergdahl of "walking off base with intent to not support the War On Terror", and says he was "directly responsible" for the death of "several military members" who attempted to locate him.

The motion, which needs to attract 100,000 signatures by June 30 to elicit a response from the Obama administration, had generated more than 8,700 signature by May 2.

Questions over how Sgt Bergdahl's release should be handled were also raised by Greg Leatherman, the non-commissioned officer in charge of Bergdahl's unit when he "crawled away".

Mr Leatherman said: "His welcoming as a hero is not something that sits well with me. I'm glad he is home and healthy, but there needs to be an investigation and the truth needs to be told."

On Monday, the mayor from Sgt Bergdahl's hometown of Hailey, Idaho, urged Americans not to rush to judgment.

"If objective facts and a careful investigation reveal that Bowe Bergdahl should face consequences in a United States courtroom, then the United States should do what it believes is necessary," Mayor Fritz Haemmerle said in a statement.

"The City of Hailey respectfully requests that people do not pre-judge this young man... in the meantime, our celebration will focus on Bowe Bergdahl's release and the relief of his family and those who live here."

A story published by Rolling Stone magazine in 2012 quoted emails Sgt Bergdahl is said to have sent to his parents that suggested he was disillusioned with America's mission in Afghanistan.

The emails reportedly noted that he had lost faith in the Army's mission there and was considering desertion.

Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel declined to comment on the allegations, telling reporters that such matters "will be dealt with later".

Meanwhile, lawmakers in Washington are voicing concerns over the Obama administration's decision to hand over five Afghan detainees to the Qatar government in exchange for securing Sgt Bergdahl's release.

Under US law, such a deal requires that Congress be notified 30 days in advance.

The White House said officials decided to go ahead with the transfer in spite of the legal requirement due to "unique and exigent circumstances".

Mr Hagel said intelligence indicated that Sgt Bergdahl's "safety and health were both in jeopardy" and officials had to act quickly.

But the move to release the detainees angered several lawmakers who accused the Obama administration of setting a dangerous precedent.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz said: "Have we just put a price on other US soldiers?" while Senator John McCain, also questioned the release of "hardened terrorists who have the blood of Americans and countless Afghans on their hands".

Sgt Bergdahl remains at a US military hospital in Germany. It is not immediately clear when he will be flown back to the US to be reunited with his family.


Original headline: Freed US Soldier: Petition Calls For Charges

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Source: (c) Sky News 2014

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