by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Oct 30, 2017
The judge deciding the sentence for admitted army deserter Bowe Bergdahl on Monday rejected defense claims that President Donald Trump's negative comments on Bergdahl meant he could not get a fair hearing.
But the judge, Army Colonel Jeffery Nance, suggested Trump was out of line in his remarks on Bergdahl, who was seized and held captive by Afghan insurgents for five years after abandoning his base.
At the military court hearing in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Nance acknowledged that Trump's October 16 statement that "people have heard my comments in the past" about Bergdahl -- Trump has called for the death penalty for him -- did appear to be pressure on the case.
But Nance said that Trump's position as commander in chief of the US military would not sway his sentencing decision, which could range from no prison time to life in prison.
"I have been a military judge for nearly 13 years. I was promoted to colonel in April 2007. I have no hope of or ambition for promotion beyond my current rank," said Nance, noting he will retire in 2018.
"I am completely unaffected by any opinions President Trump may have about Sgt Bergdahl."
Bergdahl, 31, pleaded guilty in mid October to charges of desertion and endangering his fellow troops.
Nance alone is to decide his punishment.
The case has been swamped in politics ever since president Barack Obama agreed to trade five Taliban prisoners for Bergdahl in 2014, earning intense criticism from Republicans and many in the military who branded Bergdahl a traitor.
Critics say Bergdahl should be jailed for a long time while sympathizers, noting his harsh treatment while in the hands of the notorious Haqqani group, allies of the Taliban, say he should be freed.
During last year's presidential campaign Trump repeatedly suggested Bergdahl should be executed, and after winning the election promised to review the case, labelling him a "dirty rotten traitor."
Beginning the second week of the sentencing phase of the trial, Nance heard more testimony on Monday about soldiers injured while searching for Bergdahl.
The testimony included the wife and doctor of Master Sergeant Mark Allen, who was left paralyzed by a bullet wound to the head when attacked during a patrol in eastern Afghanistan in the month following Bergdahl's disappearance.
Nance said the hearing will continue Tuesday, but gave no hint as to when he might make a decision on the sentence.
Arbil, Iraq (AFP) Oct 28, 2017
Parliament in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region said it will meet Sunday to redistribute the powers of president Massud Barzani who is facing pressure to quit after last month's independence vote. A statement from Barzani will be read out at the meeting which is set to open at 1100 GMT, parliament said on Saturday. On Tuesday, parliament decided to freeze the activities of Barzani, his vi ... read more
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