U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who walked away from his post in Afghanistan and became a Taliban prisoner for five years, will face court-martial with a potential life sentence, the Army said on Monday.
Bergdahl, 29, was charged earlier this year with desertion and endangering U.S. troops and could face the life sentence if convicted of the latter, more serious offense.
In ordering the court martial on Monday, Army General Robert Abrams did not follow the recommendation of a preliminary hearing which, according to Bergdahl’s lawyer, called for Bergdahl to face a proceeding that could impose a potential maximum penalty of a year in confinement.
Bergdahl’s lawyer, Eugene Fidell, said the defense team “had hoped the case would not go in this direction.”
He also urged Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has called Bergdahl a “dirty, rotten traitor,” to “cease his prejudicial months-long campaign of defamation against our client.”
In a later interview on Monday, Fidell also criticized members of Congress for publicly saying they were closely monitoring the outcome of the case.
Sen. John McCain, who chairs a committee that oversees promotions of senior military officers, said last month that he would hold a hearing on the case if Bergdahl was not punished.
The senior general who will ultimately decide Bergdahl’s fate is expected to come before McCain’s committee in the future for his next promotion.
“I think the politicization of everything surrounding this case is very disturbing,” Fidell said. “And the willingness of members of the… Senate to interfere with…