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US Marine Who Vanished in Iraq Found Guilty of Desertion

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

A U.S. Marine who disappeared from his base in Iraq in 2004 and later fled to Lebanon was found guilty on Monday of twice deserting the military and could face up to seven-and-one-half years in prison.

Corporal Wassef Hassoun, 35, was convicted of deserting in Iraq to avoid hazardous duty and deserting again in 2005 with the intent to stay away for good, according to a statement from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where his court-martial was held.

After Hassoun vanished from his base in Fallujah, Iraq, in June 2004, the Arabic language interpreter turned up a month later in Lebanon claiming to have been kidnapped by militants, the military has said.

But military investigators accused the Lebanese-born Marine of taking unauthorized leave from his unit and stealing a service gun.

Before the start of military legal proceedings against him, Hassoun failed to report for duty at Camp Lejeune in January 2005, fled the United States and again went to Lebanon, the Marine Corps said.

He was listed as a deserter for nearly a decade before being taken into custody last summer.

Hassoun chose to have a military judge decide his case rather than a jury. He was found not guilty of stealing his military-issued pistol but guilty of negligence that resulted in its loss, according to the base statement.

The trial now enters the sentencing phase, which could bring Hassoun prison time, a reduced rank, forfeited pay and a dishonorable discharge, the Marines said.