Lawyers for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl [BBC profile] filed a motion to dismiss on Thursday with the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces [official website]. The defense attorneys claim [The Hill report] that President Trump’s statements during the campaign trail that Bergdahl is a traitor who should be executed has prevent Bergdahl from receiving a fair trial. The defense attorneys claim that the Commander-in-Chief repeatedly calling Bergdahl a traitor and calling for his execution constitute an apparent unlawful command influence, which they claim merits a dismissal of the case or at the very least, removal of any punishment or potential confinement to Bergdahl. Bergdahl is facing a court-martial for discretion and endangering US troops after abandoning his post in 2009 before being captured by the Taliban, who held him captive for five years. Bergdahl’s lawyers initially requested a dismissal during Bergdahl’s court-martial, but were denied [ruling, PDF]. They then appealed the ruling to the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals [official website] which upheld the ruling.
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 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.