The U.S. Army will hold a preliminary hearing on Thursday in the desertion case of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, a former prisoner of war in Afghanistan who was held for five years before being swapped in 2014 for five Taliban leaders.
The proceedings held at a military base in San Antonio will be similar to a probable cause case in civilian court where both sides can call witnesses and lay out legal arguments, legal experts said.
Bergdahl, 29, was charged in March with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. If convicted of misbehavior, the most serious charge, he could be sentenced to life in prison.
U.S. Army Forces Command said an Article 32 preliminary hearing into the two charges would take place at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where Bergdahl has been stationed since shortly after his release in the summer of 2014.
An Article 32 proceeding is similar to a grand jury investigation under civilian law, and the appearance would be Bergdahl's first before a court since being charged.
The presiding officer at the hearing will recommend the course of action for resolving Bergdahl's case, whether it should proceed to a trial by court martial or be dispensed in some other manner.
Bergdahl disappeared on June 30, 2009, from Combat Outpost Mest-Lalak in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and was later captured by the Taliban.
He was freed in a prisoner swap that sent five Taliban leaders who were being held at Guantanamo to Qatar, where they had to remain for a year. The deal drew heavy criticism from Republicans.
Attorney Eugene Fidell, who is leading Bergdahl's defense, has said Bergdahl was not trying to desert when he left his post but instead was trying to locate the nearest general officer so he could report "disturbing circumstances."
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