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U.S. Marine to face trial in military court after vanishing from unit

Alex Wong/Getty Images U.S. Marine Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun, who went missing in Iraq and turned up safe in Lebanon three weeks later.

A U.S. Marine who vanished from his unit in Iraq and later wound up in Lebanon for eight years will face trial in military court on desertion and other charges, the military said Friday.

Maj. Gen. William D. Beydler has referred 34-year-old Cpl. Wassef Hassoun for a general court-martial on charges of desertion, larceny and destruction of government property, according to a news release from the Marines. No date has been set for Hassoun’s trial at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where he is being held.

The case began in June 2004, when Hassoun disappeared from a base in Fallujah, Iraq. About a week later, he appeared in a photo purportedly taken by insurgents. Hassoun was blindfolded and had a sword poised above his head.

Hassoun, a naturalized American citizen who was born and grew up in Lebanon, turned up days later at the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon saying he was kidnapped by extremists.

A television image aired by Al Jazeera on June 27, 2004 shows a blindfolded man dressed in camouflage and identified as Wassef Ali Hassoun sitting in a chair with a hand holding a sword above his head. The Lebanese-born U.S. marine is alive and free after having been thought to have been decapitated by his captors in Iraq, the hostage's brother said July 6, 2004.HO/REUTERS A television image aired by Al Jazeera on June 27, 2004 shows a blindfolded man dressed in camouflage and identified as Wassef Ali Hassoun sitting in a chair with a hand holding a sword above his head. The Lebanese-born U.S. marine is alive and free after having been thought to have been decapitated by his captors in Iraq, the hostage’s brother said July 6, 2004.

But the military doubted his story, and he was brought back to the U.S. while charges were considered. He was allowed to visit relatives in Utah in December 2004 when he disappeared again – eventually winding up back in Lebanon. A civilian defense attorney for Hassoun has said he was prevented from leaving by Lebanese court proceedings.

The defense attorney, Haytham Faraj, said that the report generated by the military equivalent of a grand jury hearing noted that the case against Hassoun consists mostly of circumstantial evidence and that many witnesses, including some in Iraq, would be hard to find.

Military prosecutors argue Hassoun was unhappy with his deployment and left the Marines in Iraq in 2004. They cited witnesses who said Hassoun didn’t like how the U.S. was interrogating Iraqis and that he said he wouldn’t shoot back at Iraqis.

Military officials say a marriage for Hassoun had been arranged with a woman in Lebanon. They are now married and have a son who has dual U.S. and Lebanese citizenship.

Faraj, who maintains the kidnapping story is true, has said his client traveled to Lebanon in early 2005 while on leave and was soon arrested. Faraj argues that court proceedings in Lebanon were triggered by the U.S. charges against Hassoun.

Marine prosecutors say Hassoun’s whereabouts were unknown for eight years. He was returned to the U.S. in 2014 after he contacted officials here.

Lebanese-born US Marine Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun, who was believed to be held hostage in Iraq.-/AFP/Getty Images Lebanese-born US Marine Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun, who was believed to be held hostage in Iraq.

Translated Lebanese government documents provided to the court say Hassoun was arrested in 2005 by Lebanese authorities after Interpol issued a bulletin triggered by his status as a deserter. The documents, which were also given to The Associated Press by Faraj, say Lebanese authorities released him but took his passport and prevented him from traveling.

The documents indicate that Lebanese officials declined to extradite Hassoun and that a court there eventually fined him for theft of military tools – a charge that mirrors the larceny charge against him in the U.S.

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Posted by on Sep 29 2014. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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