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08 December 2023

Trial for US marine accused of deserting to Lebanon

Cpl Wassef Hassoun, left, is escorted to the courtroom on Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C., Monday, Feb. 9, 2015, for the beginning of his court martial trial. (AFP)

By Reuters

A US Marine accused of deserting the military in Iraq in 2004 before turning up in Lebanon claiming to have been kidnapped and then deserting again the following year decided on Monday to have a military judge decide his fate instead of a jury.

Corporal Wassef Hassoun, 35, is being tried at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina on charges of desertion, destruction of government property and larceny, according to the Marine Corps. The Arabic language interpreter was listed as a deserter for nearly a decade before being taken into custody last summer.

The Marine Corps said the Lebanese-born Hassoun first deserted the military in June 2004, when he vanished from his base in Fallujah, Iraq. He reappeared a month later in Lebanon and claimed that he had been kidnapped by militants, the military said.

Military investigators accused him of taking unauthorized leave from his unit and stealing a service gun.

Before military legal proceedings could start against him, Hassoun failed to report for duty at Camp Lejeune in January 2005, fled the United States and again went to Lebanon, the Marines said.

Hassoun's court-martial began on Monday and is scheduled to last about two weeks. During the first day of proceedings, he pleaded guilty to a lesser offense of unauthorized absence connected to his second disappearance, according to Captain Stewart Coles, a base spokesman.

He entered a not-guilty plea for all the other charges against him, Coles said.