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Investigative hearing set for alleged Marine deserter

Aug. 19, 2014 - 08:03PM   |  
Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun makes a statement to the press outside Quantico Marine Base Va., in 2004. Hassoun initially disappeared from his unit during a 2004 deployment to Iraq. He then disappeared again in December 2004. (Steve Helber / AP)
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Marine officials have scheduled an Article 32 investigative hearing for Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, suspected of deserting his post twice, once in Iraq.

Hassounís Article 32 hearing is set for Thursday, said Lt. Col. Cliff Gilmore, a spokesman for II Marine Expeditionary Force, out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. That hearing will determine whether Hassoun will face formal charges.

In July, officials announced that they were investigating charges of desertion, destruction of government property and larceny.

If the desertion charge is referred to court-martial, the outcome for Hassoun could be grave: desertion from a war zone is one of few military crimes that is punishable by death.

Hassoun, 34, initially disappeared from his unit during a 2004 deployment to Iraq. It was not immediately clear whether he had abandoned post or been abducted, and the confusion was heightened when a photo of a blindfolded Hassoun appeared on the Al-Jazeera news network, showing a man behind him holding a sword over his head.

Shortly after his disappearance, Hassoun reached out to U.S. personnel in Beirut, Lebanon, and was recovered by the Marine Corps and returned to Camp Lejeune. Marine officials began an investigation and initiated the first stages of filing desertion charges.

But over a holiday leave in December 2004, during which he was permitted to visit relatives in Utah, Hassoun disappeared again.

He remained missing until he turned himself in to U.S. officials in June. The circumstances of his decision to surrender himself remain unclear.

Gilmore said Hassoun will remain in the brig at Camp Lejeune until further decisions are made regarding his charges.

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