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Military Court Postpones Bergdahl’s Court Martial over Classified Documents

The U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals postponed legal proceedings in the desertion case against Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl over defense access to 300,000 pages of classified documents held by the government.

Reuters reports that the move could push back the trial portion of the court martial Bergdahl is facing, which is scheduled for August.

Court documents reportedly showed that the government requested the stay.

“The stay is in place until [the] appeals court can resolve a dispute involving the sharing of classified evidence with Bergdahl’s defense team,” reports CNN.

In June 2009, Bergdahl, now 29, walked off his combat outpost in Afghanistan and was subsequently captured and held prisoner by the Taliban for more than five years before his release in 2014.

Bergdahl was liberated as part of a controversial prisoner swap negotiated by the Obama administration. The trade has been deemed illegal.

The Obama administration exchanged Bergdahl for five high-risk Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Although the Obama administration has argued that exchanging the five Taliban commanders was the only option to repatriate Bergdahl, a House panel report released in December revealed that multiple alternatives were on the table, including options that did not involve the swap of prisoners.

Last year, Bergdahl was charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy by endangering American troops. The latter offense carries a sentence of up to life in prison.

A soldier who served in his battalion has accused Bergdahl of endangering and costing the lives of many of his colleagues by deserting his post. Some of Bergdahl’s former military colleagues have also argued that the search for the accused deserter put the lives of other troops at risk and diverted resources from other units.

“At a pretrial hearing in January, Captain Michael Petrusic said prosecutors expected to turn over thousands of classified documents to the defense before the trial, planned for Fort Bragg, North Carolina,” reports Reuters. “The volume of material is a sign of the complexity of the case, he said.”

“Bergdahl’s attorney, Lieutenant Colonel Franklin Rosenblatt, said prosecutors had too much authority over which documents would be provided to the soldier’s lawyers, hampering the defense’s ability to prepare for his trial,” adds the report.

Col. Jeffrey Nance, the presiding judge, is quoted by Reuters as saying at the time that the military would review all classified material and prosecutors would be granted the opportunity to object before sensitive information was shared with Bergdahl and his defense team.

“Bergdahl has not entered a plea or said whether he wants his fate decided by a judge or a panel of soldiers acting as jurors,” notes Reuters.

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