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Appeals court stays new court-martial for US Army officer opposing Iraq war

[JURIST] The US Army Court of Criminal Appeals (ACCA) [official website] issued a partial stay Friday in the court-martial of US Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada [advocacy website; JURIST news archive] after the defense filed a motion to dismiss asserting that the February mistrial [JURIST report] and that subsequent refiling of charges [JURIST report] against Watada constituted double jeopardy and a second trial would violate Watada's constitutional rights. Watada, a US Army officer who publicly refused to deploy to Iraq [JURIST report] in June 2006, is charged with four counts of conduct unbecoming an officer and one count of missing movements. If convicted, Watada could be sentenced up to six years in prison and receive a dishonorable discharge from the Army. Lt. Col. Joseph Piek, spokesperson for Fort Lewis, said that the Army expected the defense motion and believes that the court-martial, scheduled to begin July 23, will proceed without delay.

Watada, a 28-year old Honolulu native who is the first commissioned officer in the US military to publicly refuse deployment to Iraq, has refused 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. AP has more. The Seattle Times has additional coverage.

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