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U.S. Army Sergeant Bergdahl expected to plead guilty to desertion: AP

Reuters

File photo of U.S. Army Sergeant Bergdahl leaving the courthouse after an arraignment hearing for his court-martial in Fort Bragg

U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl leaves the courthouse after an arraignment hearing for his court-martial in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, December 22, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who was held captive by the Taliban for five years after walking off his post in Afghanistan, is expected to plead guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, the Associated Press reported on Friday, citing two people with knowledge of the case.

"We have no comment on that report," said Eugene Fidell, one of Bergdahl’s lawyers, when reached by phone on Friday.

In 2014, Bergdahl was released in a prisoner swap with five Taliban detainees held by the United States in a decision that was criticized by many Republican leaders. President Donald Trump has called Bergdahl a "dirty, rotten traitor."

The Idaho native was charged in 2015 with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy by endangering U.S. troops. The latter offense carries a sentence of up to life in prison.

An Army spokesman at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where Bergdahl’s trial was scheduled to begin on Oct. 23, also did not confirm the AP's report.

"We continue to maintain careful respect for the military-judicial process, the rights of the accused and ensuring the case's fairness and impartiality during this ongoing legal case," said the spokesman, Paul Boyce.

Bergdahl has said he left his post in June 2009 to draw attention to "leadership failure" in his unit.

He was subsequently captured and suffered torture, abuse and neglect at the hands of Taliban forces, a military expert testified previously.

The head of the Army team that investigated Bergdahl has said he does not believe the soldier should face jail time.

The AP reported that sentencing will start on Oct. 23, citing the individuals with knowledge of the case.


(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins and Susan Heavey; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Jonathan Oatis)

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