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US Marine Who Vanished in Iraq Facing Desertion Trial

  • VOA News

FILE - Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun makes a statement to the press outside Quantico Marine Base in Quantico, Virginia, July 19, 2004.

FILE - Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun makes a statement to the press outside Quantico Marine Base in Quantico, Virginia, July 19, 2004.

The court-martial has begun for a U.S. Marine who vanished in Iraq a decade ago and then wound up in Lebanon.

Cpl. Wassef Hassoun's desertion trial starts Monday at Camp Lejeune in the eastern state of North Carolina.

Defense attorneys maintain Hassoun was kidnapped in 2004 by insurgents and later became tangled up in Lebanese courts. But prosecutors allege Hassoun fled his post because he was unhappy with his deployment and how U.S. troops treated Iraqis.

Opening statements were expected to begin Tuesday before the military judge at Camp Lejeune.

Hassoun's case began in June 2004, when he disappeared from a base in Fallujah, Iraq. Days later, he appeared blindfolded and with a sword poised above his head in an image purportedly taken by insurgents. An extremist group claimed to be holding him captive.

Not long after that, Hassoun turned up unharmed at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, saying he'd been kidnapped.

Hassoun is a 35-year-old native of Lebanon and a naturalized American citizen. Prosecutors said he faces a maximum sentence of 27 years in prison if convicted of all charges.

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