Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the US soldier who slipped away from his patrol base in Afghanistan in 2009 and was held in captivity for five years, has been charged with desertion and misbehaving before the enemy, Army officials said, setting the stage for emotionally-charged court proceedings in coming months. The charges were announced by the service at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, hours after the 28-year-old was handed a charge sheet, according to one of his lawyers. Bergdahl will next face a preliminary Article 32 hearing, which is frequently compared to a grand jury proceeding in a US civilian court. If convicted, he faces the possibility of life in prison. The Army's decision comes after nearly 10 months of heated debate about whether Bergdahl should face charges and about the circumstances of his recovery. Critics - and an independent review by the Government Accountability Office - said President Barack Obama broke the law in authorising the release of five Taliban detainees in exchange for Bergdahl without consulting Congress. Others have insisted that Washington had a responsibility to bring Bergdahl home by any means necessary. Army officials declined on Wednesday to elaborate on the decisions they made, citing the ongoing investigation. Members of Bergdahl's defence team said on Wednesday they still have not been granted access to the contents of an army investigation launched last year on his disappearance and they refuted reports that they had been engaged in plea deal negotiations. "We ask that all Americans continue to withhold judgment until the facts of the case emerge," the lawyers said in a statement. "We also ask that government officials refrain from leaking information or engaging in other conduct that endangers our client's right to a fair trial." The court proceedings will be held at the base in Texas. The investigation into Bergdahl was launched last June, with Major General Kenneth Dahl interviewing the sergeant in Texas in August. It is believed that Dahl's findings, not yet released, will play a prominent role and serve as evidence in the case.