VOA News – The U.S. military will question freed prisoner-of-war Bowe Bergdahl on Wednesday about the circumstances that led to his 2009 capture in Afghanistan by the Taliban, his lawyer said on Tuesday.
Investigating officer Major General Kenneth Dahl will question Bergdahl, an Army sergeant, at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, where he has been stationed for the past several weeks.
“He is looking forward to having all of this over and done with, and being able to move on to the next chapter of his life,” lawyer Eugene Fidell said.
Fidell declined to speculate on what Bergdahl will say to the general but said his client will cooperate.
Bergdahl, 28, was released in May after nearly five years in captivity in exchange for five Taliban prisoners who were transferred to Qatar from the Guantanamo Bay U.S. prison in Cuba.
Critics have questioned whether the Obama administration paid too high a price and whether Bergdahl had deserted his combat outpost in Afghanistan before his capture.
Greg Rinckey, a military attorney who has been involved in several hearings similar to this one, said the meeting will take place in a conference room, not in a courtroom, and that it will be informal and not adversarial.
“This … general is going to be talking to Sergeant Bergdahl, asking him several questions with his lawyer present,” Rinckey said. “It is really not an interrogation, it’s more of an interview.”
Some members of Bergdahl’s former unit have indicated that he was absent without leave or may have deserted his post when he was captured by the Taliban.
Fidell, a well-known lawyer and military justice expert, said his client has been vilified by some people, but the public should not leap to conclusions before the Army finishes its investigation into how and why the soldier left his post in Afghanistan before being captured by the Taliban.
“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 good will who have communicated with me their sympathy for the experience Sgt. Bergdahl has had to undergo, the ordeal really.”
About two weeks ago, Bergdahl was returned to active duty in an administrative office at Fort Sam Houston.
At the time, Pentagon spokesman, Colonel Steve Warren, told reporters in Washington that Bergdahl would be doing administrative work, “essentially a desk job.”
Goal of interview
A senior Army officer has said the purpose of the probe was to determine facts and circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s disappearance up to the point of capture.
However, 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.
Dahl’s finding and recommendations will be presented to the director of Army staff, who is not bound by the conclusions and who could issue his own determinations and recommendations.
When asked about what penalties Bergdahl may face as a result of the interview, Fidell said in the ABC News interview: “I don’t think any reasonable person would want to send someone who’s already been held captive for five years by the Taliban to jail.”
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.
Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AP.