An unusual decade-old military desertion case has yet to be tried in military proceedings. Information has recently surfaced that Lt. Col. Scott W. Martin, the hearing officer, will determine if Cpl. Wassef Hassoun will face a military trial as a part of the Article 32 process.
Cpl. Hassoun was deployed and on active duty when he disappeared from his unit during June 2004. Hassoun’s disappearance from the base in Fallujah in Western Iraq was considered mysterious at the time. A photo surfaced a week after his disappearance depicting him as blindfolded with a sword aimed at his head.
Several days later, Hassoun arrived at the U. S. Embassy in Lebanon. He claimed that he had been captured. The National Islamic Resistance/1920 Revolution Brigade took credit for kidnapping and holding him hostage during the 19 day period.
Haytham Faraj is Hassoun’s defense attorney. He states that his client was held in Lebanon for court proceedings that were instigated by the United States’ military’s accusations that he had deserted. He was held for court proceedings for eight years in Lebanon.
Faraj says that documents exist that show that Hassoun was both tried and convicted by the Lebanese court system for charges that relate to his military desertion. It should be noted that it is not a normal process for other countries to try U.S. military personnel for military related crimes such as desertion. U.S. military personnel may be tried for criminal wrongdoing if accused in another country while serving in the U.S. military.
Hassoun disappeared a second time after being allowed to visit relatives in Utah during December 2004. The Article 32 proceeding scheduled for January 2005 was canceled because his whereabouts were unknown. The commanders then authorized him to be classified as a deserter.
Hassoun continued to be missing until 2013. He contacted U. S. officials at that time. Prosecutors are ready to proceed with desertion charges now that he has been located. Prosecutors believe that the enlisted Marine was unhappy with his duty deployment. There is circumstantial evidence that he willfully packed a bag and withdrew a large sum of money from his account before leaving his unit in Iraq.
Military officials also believe that Hassoun left his position with the Marines to get married. His marriage had been arranged with a Lebanese woman. Hassoun was born in Lebanon but was a naturalized citizen of the United States. In January 2002, he enlisted in the U. S. Marines. A hearing will be held on August 27, 2014 to have the Lebanese documents translated. It is undetermined if and when further action will be taken.