Marine Twice Accused Of Desertion Turns Himself In To US Authorities

| by Jared Keever

A U.S. Marine corporal, who was twice declared a deserter nearly a decade ago, has turned himself in to U.S. authorities and will face charges, the Marines Corps confirmed over the weekend. 

CNN reports Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, 34, turned himself in Sunday and was flown from an undisclosed location in the Middle East to Norfolk, Virginia. 

"The Naval Criminal Investigative Service worked with Cpl. Hassoun to turn himself in and return to the United States to face charges under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice,” read a statement from the Marine Corps.

The military will move Hassoun Monday to his home base of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Eric Flanagan told The Associated Press. Maj. Gen. Raymond Fox will determine within days how to proceed with the case, Flanagan said. Hassoun, whose whereabouts have been unknown for nine years, could face a court martial.

Hassoun originally disappeared from his unit in Iraq in June of 2004. He later claimed he was kidnapped by Islamic extremists. 

A week after his disappearance, Hassoun appeared in a hostage video in which a group calling itself the Islamic Response threatened to behead him unless Iraqi detainees were released from U.S. Custody. According to the Los Angeles Times, many believed the video was a hoax. 

A month after the video’s release, Hassoun surfaced, unharmed, in Beirut, Lebanon. He was returned to Camp Lejeune. Because he had not been charged with anything, he was allowed to travel. He left the military base in December of 2004 to visit relatives in Utah. 

After a five-month investigation, he was charged with desertion, theft of a government Humvee and of leaving the Marine camp with his service pistol. 

In January of 2005, Hassoun failed to return from Utah to face the military equivalent of a grand jury. His commanders, again, officially listed him as a deserter. He was not heard from again until last week. 

Hassoun’s brother, Mohamad, said that the prospect of facing desertion charges are what led to Wassef’s second disappearance. He said his brother is the victim of anti-Muslim bias in the military.

"Instead of them giving him medals and making him feel good about his service and what he was doing for his country, they gave him an Article 32,” Mohamad said. 

It is unclear why Wassef decided to turn himself in after nine years on the run. 

His formal charges will be announced later this week.

Sources: CNN, The Associated Press, Los Angeles Times