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Army says no decision made in Bergdahl investigation
January 27, 2015 / 7:23 PM / 2 years ago

Army says no decision made in Bergdahl investigation

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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.U.S. Army/Handout via Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Army on Tuesday denied that a decision had been made to bring desertion charges against Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who was released last year in a controversial prisoner swap after disappearing from his base in Afghanistan in 2009.

NBC News said earlier on Tuesday that Bergdahl would be charged with desertion, citing senior defense officials.

Major General Ronald Lewis, the Army's head of public affairs, said that report, and another from Fox News, were "patently false."

"To be clear there have been no actions or decisions on the Sergeant Bergdahl investigation," Lewis said in a statement.

"The investigation is still with the commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command (General Mark Milley) who will determine appropriate action - which ranges from no further action to convening a court-martial," he added.

The Pentagon's press secretary, Rear Admiral John Kirby, told a news conference that no decision had been made in the case and said Milley was under no pressure to make a decision on any timeline.

Top defense officials are sensitive about exercising any undue influence on officers responsible for cases in the military legal system.

Bergdahl, who spent five years in captivity after leaving his post, was released in May in an exchange with the Taliban for five inmates from the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The deal was blasted by some Republicans, and some of his fellow soldiers called him a deserter.

General Milley received the findings of Army investigators late last month, is reviewing them and has not publicly indicated whether charges will be filed, said Jim Hinnant, a spokesman for U.S. Forces Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Milley is expected to make a decision soon on whether the findings merit a court-martial or some form of administrative punishment. The general also could decide no action against Bergdahl is warranted.

"There is no timeline to make that decision and General Milley is not being put under pressure to make a decision either way," Kirby told reporters.

Bergdahl's attorney, New Haven, Connecticut-based Eugene Fidell, declined to comment on the media reports.

If officials conclude that Bergdahl broke U.S. military law, they could force him to forfeit hundreds of thousands of dollars in back pay accumulated during his captivity and give up future benefits.

Bergdahl is stationed at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, where he is working as a clerk.

Reporting by Susan Heavey and David Alexander; Additional reporting by Jim Forsyth in San Antonio, Texas; Editing by Doina Chiacu, Bill Trott and Jonathan Oatis

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