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DOJ drops appeal seeking second court-martial for Iraq war objecter

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Wednesday granted a Department of Justice (DOJ) [official websites] request to drop its appeal in the case of Iraq war objector 1st Lt. Ehren Watada [advocacy website; JURIST news archive]. In October, a federal judge ruled [order, PDF] that Watada could not face a second court-martial [JURIST report] on all charges for which he already faced court-martial. The judge had granted an injunction [JURIST report] against the second court-martial in November 2007 in order to resolve the double jeopardy dispute. The controversy over Watada's second court-martial concerns the declaration of a mistrial [JURIST report] in the original proceedings after the military judge rejected a Stipulation of Fact by Watada and the government, conceding that Watada was guilty of the charge of Missing Movement when he missed a flight that would have flown him to his post in Iraq. Watada could still face a court-martial for two other counts [Seattle Times report] of conduct unbecoming an officer that were not dismissed by the federal court.

The district court had already stayed court-martial proceedings, scheduled to begin in October 2007, and later extended the stay, after Watada asked [JURIST reports] the US District Court for the Western District of Washington for relief while an appeal was pending with the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces [official websites]. Watada, a 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 and Courage to Resist [advocacy websites] led to the charges of conduct unbecoming an officer and the original charge of contempt toward officials.

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