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Bergdahl Makes First Appearance Before U.S. Military Judge

U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl (R) leaves the courthouse after an arraignment hearing for his court-martial in Fort Bragg, North Carolina on December 22.

U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl has made his first appearance before a U.S. military judge to face charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

The soldier, who disappeared in Afghanistan in 2009 and was held by the Taliban for five years, deferred entering a plea.

The hearing was held on December 22 in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

If convicted, Bergdahl could get life in prison on the misbehavior charge and up to five years for desertion.

Bergdahl's May 2014 release in exchange for five Taliban prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, touched off a firestorm of controversy.

Some of Bergdahl's former comrades have accused him of putting their lives in danger during the army's extensive search to rescue him after he disappeared.

His lawyers have argued that Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump's labeling of Bergdahl a "dirty, rotten traitor" may prejudice jurors against him.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP