U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan for five years before being freed in a prisoner swap, pleaded guilty Monday to charges that he endangered comrades by walking off his post.
At a court martial hearing in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Bergdahl pleaded guilty to charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The latter carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban shortly after he left his remote post in 2009, prompting an extensive manhunt. The soldier from Idaho previously explained his actions saying he merely intended to cause alarm and draw attention to what he saw as problems with his unit.
Bergdahl was freed from captivity in 2014 in exchange for five Taliban detainees held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. His high-profile case drew national political attention. President Barack Obama was criticized by Republicans who claimed the prisoner trade jeopardized the nation's security. Then-candidate Donald Trump repeatedly called Bergdahl a "traitor" who should be executed.
Speaking last year in an on-camera interview by a British filmmaker, which aired Monday on ABC News, Bergdahl said Trump's comments would make his chance for a fair trial impossible.
“We may as well go back to kangaroo courts and lynch mobs that got what they wanted,” Bergdahl said. “The people who want to hang me, you’re never going to convince those people.”
U.S. Army Forces Command spokesman Paul Boyce told VOA ahead of Bergdahl's plea that the Army continues “to maintain careful respect for the military-judicial process, the rights of the accused, and ensuring the case's fairness and impartiality during this ongoing legal case.”
Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb contributed to this report.