June 29, 2014
WASHINGTON — A Marine who was declared a deserter nearly 10 years ago after disappearing in Iraq and then returning to the U.S. claiming he had been kidnapped, only to disappear again, is back in U.S. custody, officials said Sunday.
Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, 34, turned himself in and was being flown Sunday from an undisclosed location in the Middle East to Norfolk, Va. He is to be moved Monday to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, according to a spokesman, Capt. Eric Flanagan.
Maj. Gen. Raymond Fox, commander of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force at Lejeune, will determine whether to court martial Hassoun.
In a written statement from its headquarters at the Pentagon, the Marine Corps said the Naval Criminal Investigative Service “worked with” Hassoun to turn himself in and return to the U.S. to face charges.
Hassoun disappeared from his unit in Iraq’s western desert in June 2004. The following month he turned up unharmed in Beirut, Lebanon and blamed his disappearance on Islamic extremist kidnappers. He was returned to Lejeune and was about to face the military equivalent of a grand jury hearing when he disappeared again.
In a February 2005 interview with the Associated Press in Salt Lake City, Hassoun’s brother, Mohamad, said Wassef Ali Hassoun was a victim of anti-Muslim bias in the U.S. military. The Marine Corps denied this.
The brother also said the pressure of facing desertion charges was partly to blame for Hassoun’s decision to flee while in Utah.
“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,” Hassoun said of the military court proceedings that his brother was to have faced in January 2005.
Family members have said they last saw him on Dec. 29, 2004.