Attorney says former U.S. POW Bergdahl grateful to Obama for freedom

Wed Jul 16, 2014 10:10am EDT

U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Berghdal 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

U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Berghdal is pictured in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Army and received by Reuters on May 31, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/U.S. Army/Handout via Reuters

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(Reuters) - U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is grateful to President Barack Obama for the prisoner exchange that freed him from five years as a captive of the Taliban, his attorney said on Wednesday.

Bergdahl, who was cleared to return to a desk job this week after the Army said he had completed counseling and a reintegration process, has retained Eugene Fidell, a specialist in military law, to represent him.

In an interview with CNN, Fidell declined to discuss Bergdahl's state of mind because his disappearance and capture in Afghanistan on June 30, 2009, is being investigated by the Army.

"In due course, the country is going to have more facts in front of it as the pending investigation unfolds, but for the moment I would ask that everybody sort of hold the phone," Fidell said, speaking from San Antonio, Texas, where Bergdahl is now based.

Bergdahl was freed May 31 in exchange for five Taliban prisoners held at the U.S. facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Critics of the deal said the Obama administration paid too high a price and questioned if Bergdahl had deserted his combat outpost before being captured.

Fidell said Bergdahl is aware of the controversy surrounding his case.

"Sergeant Bergdahl has had a close brush with death over a prolonged period of time," Fidell said. "He understands that his life has been saved. He's grateful to President Obama for doing that."

Fidell declined to comment on reports that Bergdahl has refused to talk with his parents, who continuously pressed his case with the Obama administration, and said for now Bergdahl has no interest in speaking out.

"I know people are interested, but I would ask that everyone have a little patience here," Fidell told CNN. "He's gone through an extraordinary ordeal, an unimaginable ordeal.

"The hope is (that) he can return to a normal life and reintegrate properly into American society, as well as the Army, and get on with his life. He's lost five years in the most unspeakable way."

(Writing by Bill Trott; Editing by Susan Heavey)

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