(Reuters) - The U.S. military on Monday began the court-martial of a Lebanese-born Marine who is 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.
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 former Arabic language interpreter was listed as a deserter for nearly a decade before being taken into custody last year.
The Marine Corps said Hassoun first deserted the military in June 2004, when he vanished from his base in 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 unauthorised leave from his unit. But before the start of military legal proceedings 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 trial is scheduled to last about two weeks. He could face up to 29 years in prison if found guilty on all counts, said Captain Stewart Coles, a base spokesman.
Coles said the court on Monday dealt with motions and procedural issues and had not yet seated a jury.
Reporting by Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Editing by Will Dunham