Marine who went missing in Iraq charged with desertion

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ A Marine who claimed he was abducted by anti-coalition forces after he went missing from his unit in Iraq has been charged with desertion. <br/><br/>The charges filed Thursday against

Friday, December 10th 2004, 6:20 am

By: News On 6

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ A Marine who claimed he was abducted by anti-coalition forces after he went missing from his unit in Iraq has been charged with desertion.

The charges filed Thursday against Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun followed a five-month investigation into his June disappearance from a U.S. military camp near Fallujah, Iraq, according to a statement from the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade at Camp Lejeune.

Hassoun, of West Jordan, Utah, is accused of taking unauthorized leave from the unit where he served as an Arabic interpreter.

Hassoun also is charged with loss of government property and theft of a military firearm for allegedly leaving the Marine camp while still in possession of his 9 mm service pistol, as well as theft and wrongful appropriation of a government vehicle.

Neither Hassoun nor his lawyer planned to make any public statement about the charges, brigade spokesman Maj. Matt Morgan said. Hassoun's family in Utah did not answer their phone Thursday.

No date has been set for an Article 32 hearing, one of the first steps toward a possible court-martial, Morgan said.

Hassoun is not in custody or confined to Camp Lejeune; he is working in the brigade motor pool. Morgan said he will continue to go about his normal duties, although he is considered to be non-deployable until the charges are resolved.

The desertion count carries a five-year maximum prison sentence and the other counts carry 10-year maximums. If convicted, Hassoun also could be dishonorably discharged and ordered to forfeit his pay and allowances.

Hassoun was last seen in Iraq on June 19. He did not report for duty the next day and was listed as missing.

On June 27, the Arabic news network Al-Jazeera broadcast the photo of Hassoun looking as if he was a hostage, blindfolded and with a sword behind his head. A group called the National Islamic Resistance/1920 Revolution Brigade claimed to be holding him and was threatening to decapitate him unless detainees in ``U.S.-led occupation prisons'' were released, Al-Jazeera said.

Hassoun contacted American officials in Beirut, Lebanon, on July 8, and he was taken to the American Embassy there.

He spent about a week in a U.S. military hospital at Landstuhl, Germany, then returned to the United States, and eventually to Camp Lejeune.

He has made one statement since returning to the United States, saying he was captured and held against his will by anti-coalition forces. Hassoun has declined interview requests.

During fighting last month in Fallujah, U.S. troops recovered Hassoun's personal belongings in a box on the third floor of a three-story commercial building. The property included an identification card, a uniform and a book.

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