SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – The lawyer for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the former Taliban prisoner in Afghanistan charged with desertion, on Thursday chastised U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for calling his client a “traitor.”
“Sgt. Bergdahl is not charged with treason or anything like it,” attorney Eugene Fidell said in a statement.
“I condemn Mr. Trump’s reckless disregard for the truth. He should be ashamed of himself.”
In a town hall meeting in New Hampshire on Wednesday, Trump called Bergdahl a “dirty, rotten traitor” and criticized the Obama administration for the deal that freed the soldier in a prisoner swap with the Taliban. Many prominent Republicans have called the deal irresponsible.
Trump is leading the polls among the 17 Republican candidates seeking the party’s presidential nomination for the November 2016 election.
Bergdahl, who was released in 2014 after spending about five years as a prisoner of the Taliban in Afghanistan, is now stationed with Army North at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, while he awaits court-martial on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.
Fidell also rejected comments made by Trump and others that as many as five U.S. soldiers died searching for Bergdahl after he walked away from his forward operating position in Afghanistan in 2009.
“The Army’s prosecutors, who have the vast resources of the government at their disposal, have informed us that they will not be offering evidence that anyone died searching for my client,” he said.
“Mr. Trump must stop vilifying this young man, who suffered five years of brutal captivity at the hands of the Taliban, and deserves to be judged on the basis of evidence rather than slander from someone who has never worn our country’s uniform,” he said.
Bergdahl is scheduled to appear at an Article 32 hearing, the Uniform Code of Military Justice equivalent of a grand jury, at Fort Sam Houston next month.
Bergdahl was charged in March with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, and could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of the most serious count.