U.S. Army deserter Bergdahl suffers nerve
damage after captivity: witness
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[November 01, 2017]
By Greg Lacour
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Reuters) - U.S. Army
Sergeant Brad Bergdahl suffers significant nerve damage as a result of
malnutrition and torture while he was a prisoner of the Taliban after
being captured in Afghanistan when he deserted his post in June 2009,
defense witnesses said.
The 31-year-old Bergdahl faces a possible sentence of life in prison
after pleading guilty last month to desertion and misbehavior before the
enemy. His defense this week has called a lineup of witnesses, including
coworkers and military medical experts, in an effort to persuade a
military judge not to send him to prison.
Lieutenant Colonel Allen Larsen, a battalion surgeon who has examined
the Idaho native, testified on Tuesday that Bergdahl suffers nerve
damage. He attributed it to a poor diet fed to him by his Taliban
captors during his years of imprisonment, as well as torture in which
lit matches were held to the soles of his feet.
Larsen described the damage as akin to that seen in U.S. soldiers held
as Japanese prisoners of war during World War Two. He said Bergdahl will
likely continue to feel some pain in his feet for the rest of his life.
"I think his pain is as good as it's going to get, and it's going to
remain that way," Larsen said by telephone from Afghanistan.
Bergdahl's lawyers are due to call three more witnesses on Wednesday.
After their testimony concludes, the judge in the case, Army Colonel
Jeffery Nance, will begin deliberating his sentence.
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U.S. Army Sergeant Beaudry Robert "Bowe" Bergdahl enters the
courthouse for the fifth day of sentencing proceedings in his court
martial at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, U.S., October 31, 2017.
Bergdahl was released in a 2014 Taliban prisoner swap brokered by
Democratic President Barack Obama's administration.
During last year's presidential campaign, Republican candidate
Donald Trump called Bergdahl "a no-good traitor who should have been
executed." Nance has ruled that the comments by Trump, now president
and commander in chief, had not affected the fairness of the court
proceeding, but said he will consider them a mitigating factor.
Prosecutors last week called multiple witnesses, including service
members who described the hazards they faced in multiple hastily
organized missions to rescue Bergdahl. Several were badly injured,
including Master Sergeant Mark Allen, who was shot in the head,
leaving him unable to speak or walk.
(Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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