[JURIST] Attorneys representing US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl [BBC profile] said Sunday that they will ask the US Army Court of Criminal Appeals [official website] to dismiss discretion charges against their client in light of comments made by President Donald Trump [official website] on the campaign trail. Bergdahl is facing a court-martial for discretion and endangering US troops after allegedly abandoning his post in 2009 before being captured by the Taliban, who held him captive for five years. His attorneys are expressing concerns [Reuters report] over the potential for a fair trial after Trump publicly called Bergdahl a traitor and stated that he should be executed for his actions. The US Army Trial Judiciary [official website] denied a similar motion [ruling, PDF] Friday and stated that:
The comments by Mr. Trump that might be considered pretrial publicity are not so pervasive and unfair as to saturate the community and prevent any trier of fact from being impartial.. … Mr. Trump has said nothing about the accused or his case since August 2016. Under these facts, the court cannot find a due process violation sufficient to make amelioration measures futile.
Bergdahl’s attorneys have criticized the ruling and stated the influential nature of Trump’s remarks are a cause for concern.
Bergdahl’s actions in 2009 resulted in a huge manhunt in Afghanistan, which ultimately led to his capture by the Taliban’s Haqqani Network [CNN backgrounder] insurgents in June 2009. Bergdahl was imprisoned for nearly five years in eastern Afghanistan. During the time he was held as prisoner, Bergdahl appeared in six videos [advocacy website] released by the Taliban, the only indication that he was still alive. In March of last year the US military charged [JURIST report] Bergdahl with “desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty” and “misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit, or place.” Bergdahl was exchanged [JURIST report] in 2014 for five Taliban members who were held at the Guantanamo Bay detention complex.