US Marine who vanished in Iraq guilty of deserting

US Marine who vanished in Iraq guilty of deserting
US Marines on patrol in Iraq in this 2005 file photo

WASHINGTON - A Marine who vanished from a US military base in Iraq in 2004 was convicted and jailed Monday for twice deserting his unit, with prosecutors saying he was disillusioned and longed for his native Lebanon.

A military judge at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, sentenced Marine Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun to more than two years in prison, dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of all pay and allowances, officials said.

The judge, Major Nicholas Martz, found Hassoun, 35, guilty of deserting his combat post in June 2004 in the central Iraqi city of Fallujah, and of deserting his Marine unit at Camp Lejeune in January 2005, military officials said.

Hassoun fled to Lebanon in both cases, staying there for nearly a decade the second time.

Hassoun was also convicted of negligently causing the loss of a service-issued M9 pistol during his 2004 disappearance.

Prosecutors have compared Hassoun's actions to a spy novel, with the Arabic-language interpreter claiming he was kidnapped by militants when he left his post in Iraq, only to later turn up in Lebanon.

The military listed him as a deserter for nearly 10 years until he was taken into custody in June.

Hassoun pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of an unauthorized absence, and not guilty to desertion, larceny and destruction of government property.

He had faced up to seven-and-a-half years in prison.

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