Bergdahl lawyers ask U.S. Army court to
dismiss case due to Trump comments
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[February 27, 2017]
By Laila Kearney
(Reuters) - Lawyers for U.S. Army Sergeant
Bowe Bergdahl said on Sunday they will ask an Army appeals court to
dismiss charges against him in the belief that President Donald Trump's
repeatedly calling him a "traitor" during the election campaign make it
impossible for him to get a fair trial.
Bergdahl's defense team plans to make the request on Monday at the U.S.
Army Court of Criminal Appeals in Virginia, Attorney Eugene Fidell said
in a telephone interview. In a lower court, military Judge Jeffrey Nance
of U.S. Army Trial Judiciary Second Judicial Court in Fort Bragg, North
Carolina, rejected their argument.
Bergdahl, who spent five years as a prisoner of the Taliban in
Afghanistan after walking off his post in 2009, faces a court-martial on
charges of desertion and endangerment of U.S. troops.
The soldier's attorneys argue that comments made by Trump on the
campaign trail before his November presidential election victory
condemning Bergdahl, at one point calling him "a no-good traitor," have
denied their client of his due-process rights.
"Our position is that President Trump's comments during the campaign
repeatedly vilifying Sergeant Bergdahl prevents him from getting a fair
trial," Fidell said.
The court martial, which could result in a life sentence, is scheduled
to begin in late April.
Bergdahl was freed in a prisoner swap in May 2014 involving the release
of five Taliban leaders held by the United States in a deal that drew
heavy criticism from Republicans.
U.S. military prosecutors charge that Bergdahl sneaked off his post,
leading to a 45-day search that endangered other soldiers' lives.
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U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is pictured in this undated handout
photo provided by the U.S. Army and received by Reuters on May 31,
2014. REUTERS/U.S. Army/Handout via Reuters
If the Army appeals court does not dismiss the charges, Fidell said
he was prepared to bring the case to the higher United States Court
of Appeals for the Armed Forces.
The head of the Army team that investigated Bergdahl has said he
does not believe the sergeant should face jail time
Fidell, who said he could not ethically discuss the personal lives
of his clients, said Bergdahl was "ready for this to be over. He's
lost a decade of his life."
(Reporting by Laila Kearney; editing by Frank McGurty and Cynthia
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