Top general scheduled to testify at Bergdahl hearing

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) — A top Army general is scheduled to testify Wednesday about why he destroyed letters he received from supporters and critics of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

Gen. Robert B. Abrams is expected to appear in court Wednesday at a pretrial hearing to answer questions related to a motion seeking to disqualify him from the case. Abrams is the four-star head of U.S. Army Forces command who decided to send the soldier’s case to a general court-martial rather than a lower-level tribunal.

Abrams has acknowledged that he disposed of letters on the case that he had largely received from the general public by sending them to an incinerator. The defense is seeking to allow another commander to decide whether the case warrants a general court-martial.

The destruction of the letters is one of several reasons the defense says Abrams should be disqualified. They also cite his prior role advising former U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during efforts to return Bergdahl from captivity and questions about whether Abrams considered defense objections to the findings of a preliminary hearing.

The judge overseeing Bergdahl’s case, Army Col. Jeffery Nance, decided Monday that Abrams must testify this week.

“There are some questions I have to ask about the 100 or so letters,” Nance told the lawyers, though he said he was skeptical about the letters’ relevance.

Prosecutors argue that the letters, sent largely by members of the public, didn’t constitute evidence and that Abrams shouldn’t be disqualified.

Abrams’ appearance could provide courtroom fireworks. It’s unusual for a four-star general to testify in a court-martial hearing, said Eric Carpenter, a former Army lawyer who teaches law at Florida International University.

Bergdahl, who is from Hailey, Idaho, walked off his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and wound up as a captive of the Taliban and its allies until 2014. The Obama administration won his release by swapping him for Guantanamo Bay detainees. Bergdahl faces a court-martial on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The latter charge carries up to a life sentence.

The trial is scheduled for February 2017.


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