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Legal proceedings for Sgt. Bergdahl halted due to classified material
February 10, 2016 / 12:45 AM / 2 years ago

Legal proceedings for Sgt. Bergdahl halted due to classified material

U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl leaves the courthouse after an arraignment hearing for his court-martial in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, December 22, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

(Reuters) - Legal proceedings in the military desertion case against U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl were halted on Tuesday over defense access to 300,000 pages of classified documents held by the government, which could push back his trial planned for August.

The U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals granted the stay after the government requested one, court documents showed.

Bergdahl, 29, walked off his combat outpost in Afghanistan in June 2009, and was captured and held by the Taliban for more than five years before his release in 2014 as part of a controversial prisoner exchange.

In March 2015, he was charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy by endangering U.S. troops, with the latter offense carrying a sentence of up to life in prison.

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. 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.

Colonel Jeffery Nance, the presiding judge, said at the time that military security officers would review all classified information and prosecutors would have the chance to object before sensitive material was given to 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.

Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Toni Reinhold

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