Wassef Ali Hassoun Declared Deserter
U.S. Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, charged with desertion in a mysterious case in which he left his unit in Iraq and turned up in Lebanon, has again gone absent and appears to have returned to Lebanon, officials said on Wednesday. The U.S. military has tracked records from bank machines indicating that Hassoun made his way to Canada and then back to Lebanon, the country of his birth, said a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity. The Marine Corps formally declared him a deserter on Wednesday.
Maj. Matt Morgan, a Marine Corps spokesman at Camp Lejeune, said Hassoun did not return to the base and report for duty as required on Tuesday from an authorized leave over the New Year’s holiday to visit his family in Utah. A Marine Corps statement said that “his command officially declared him a deserter and issued authorization for civil authorities to apprehend Hassoun and return him to military control.” “The Marine Corps did contact his family when he initially failed to show up yesterday (Tuesday),” Morgan said. “They were not able to provide any information that was helpful.”
Hassoun disappeared last June from his unit in Iraq where he had worked as an Arabic interpreter and later turned up in Lebanon, stating he had been kidnapped by militants. The Marines announced on Dec. 9 that he had been charged with desertion, rejecting his account that he had been kidnapped. Hassoun also was charged with loss of government property and theft of a 9mm military pistol. Officials said additional criminal charges were now possible.
Although desertion from the U.S. military in a time of war could be punishable by death, the Marines said they had no intention of seeking the death penalty.
Hassoun’s name has now been placed on the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database, which would allow local and state police to identify whether people they stop for routine infractions were wanted fugitives, Morgan said.
Morgan said Hassoun’s original passport was lost in Iraq. Hassoun had been issued a temporary replacement, but was forced to surrender it, Morgan said. “To the best of our knowledge, he did not have a passport,” Morgan said.
Hassoun returned to the United States on July 15, and had been given two previous authorized leaves to visit his family. “Both times he went to Utah and both times he returned,” Morgan said. But the latest authorized leave was the first once he was granted after being formally charged, Morgan said.
Why a person who deserted his unit in a war zone, faked his own kidnapping, and under criminal charges for a death penalty offense was allowed passes out of state is beyond me.