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Court-martial begins for US Army officer protesting 'illegal' Iraq war

[JURIST] The court-martial of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada [advocacy website; JURIST news archive] began Monday on charges of missing movement and conduct unbecoming an officer for Watada's refusal to be deployed [JURIST report] to Iraq with his military unit. The court-martial is being held at Fort Lewis outside of Seattle and Watada faces up to four years' imprisonment if convicted on the charges.

Watada, a 28-year-old Honolulu native who is the first commissioned officer in the US military to publicly refuse deployment to Iraq, refuses to be classified as a conscientious objector because he does not object to war in general, just to the "illegal" war in Iraq. He offered to serve in Afghanistan, but the US Army refused. His vocal protests and participation in rallies by Veterans for Peace [advocacy website] and Courage to Resist [advocacy website] led to the charges of conduct unbecoming an officer and the original charge of contempt toward officials. Last month, a US military judge ruled that Watada may not argue the legality of the war [JURIST report] as part of his defense during his court-martial. AP has more.

5:18 PM ET - Watada has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Reuters has more.

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