WASHINGTON (AP) — The lawyer representing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl said Wednesday that his client has been vilified by some people, but the public should not leap to conclusions before the U.S. Army finishes its investigation into how and why the soldier left his post in Afghanistan before being captured by the Taliban.
Eugene R. Fidell, a well-known lawyer and military justice expert, told Associated Press Television News that he assumes the probe will be done in several weeks.
“There are people who have vilified Sgt. Bergdahl, there are people who attempted to turn him into a kind of piñata,” said Fidell, who teaches at Yale Law School. “On the other hand, there are people of goodwill who have communicated with me their sympathy for the experience Sgt. Bergdahl has had to undergo, the ordeal, really.”
Some former members of the unit Bergdahl served with in Afghanistan have called him a deserter, asserting that he chose to walk away and saying some service members were wounded or killed looking for him.
An initial U.S. military investigation in 2009 concluded that Bergdahl deliberately walked away from his unit, based on evidence available at the time.
The Army has not ruled out disciplinary action against Bergdahl, who was promoted during captivity, from private first class to sergeant, as a matter of standard procedure.
“Let the facts unfold a little bit,” said Fidell, adding that he has met with Bergdahl as well as the Army officer handling the case, Maj. Gen. Kenneth R. Dahl.
He said Dahl is proceeding in a “methodical and professional way.” The Pentagon says Bergdahl has not yet met with Dahl.
Bergdahl has completed his initial reintegration into the Army after his release by the Taliban on May 31, when he was turned over to Army special forces in exchange for five detainees at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention center. He is now assigned a desk job at San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston in Texas.
Fidell added that Bergdahl is looking forward to having this entire matter behind him, and that the soldier has a lot of faith in the common sense of the American people. He said Bergdahl also is deeply grateful that President Barack Obama saved his life.
“We’ll know more in due course,” said Fidell, in a satellite interview from Yale. “I hope that the matter can be resolved sooner rather than later so that Sgt. Bergdahl can become plain old Bowe Bergdahl and return to private life and get on with his life.”
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