Marine who went missing while in Iraq charged with desertion
Friday, December 10, 2004
The Associated Press
RALEIGH, N.C. -- A Marine who was reported abducted in Iraq last summer and later turned up in his native Lebanon was charged Thursday with desertion.
Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun was charged following a five-month investigation into his June disappearance from a U.S. military camp near Fallujah, Iraq, according 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 attorney planned to make any public statement about the charges, brigade spokesman Maj. Matt Morgan said.
No date has been set for an Article 32 hearing, one of the first steps toward a possible court-martial in the military justice system, 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 showed a photo of Hassoun, blindfolded, 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.
On July 8, Hassoun contacted American officials in Beirut, Lebanon, 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.