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FIRST COMMISSIONED OFFICER TO REFUSE DEPLOYMENT TO UNLAWFUL IRAQ WAR OFFICIALLY CHARGED BY U.S.ARMY
Friends and Family of Lt. Ehren Watada www.thankyoult.org
FIRST COMMISSIONED OFFICER TO REFUSE DEPLOYMENT TO UNLAWFUL IRAQ WAR OFFICIALLY CHARGED BY U.S. ARMY
Ft. Lewis, WA-Today, July 5, 2006, First Lieutenant Ehren K. Watada was formally charged with three articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice: missing movement (Article 87), contempt towards officials (Article 88), and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman (Article 133). If convicted of all charges by a general court-martial, Lt. Watada could be sentenced to four years in a military prison.
Lt. Watada's lawyer, Eric Seitz, said this morning: "We expected the missing movement charge, but we are somewhat astounded by the contempt and conduct unbecoming charges. These additional charges open up the substance of Lt. Watada's statements for review and raise important First Amendment issues. We are delighted that the Army has given us the opportunity to litigate these questions." Most previous prosecutions of Article 88 took place during the Civil War and World War I, and the last known prosecution was in 1965 (Howe vs. U.S.). Lt. Howe was protesting the Vietnam War.
Supporters of Lt. Watada across the country are being called on to again show their support, and planning for a comprehensive educational and action campaign is underway. Puget Sound groups will hold a rally at 5:00pm tomorrow, July 6, at the Interstate 5, Exit 119 overpass adjacent to Ft. Lewis. Last week, on June 27, people in over 30 cities rallied in support of the National Day of Action to Stand Up with Lt. Watada.
Lt. Watada first attempted to resign quietly in protest over the illegality of the Iraq war and occupation in January 2006. In a videotaped statement on June 7, Lt. Watada declared: "It is my duty as a commissioned officer of the United States Army to speak out against grave injustices." On June 22, Lt. Watada became the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse deployment orders when he refused to board an Iraq bound plan with the 3rd Stryker Brigade.
"It is my conclusion as an officer of the Armed Forces that the war in Iraq is not only morally wrong but a horrible breach of American law. As the order to take part in a illegal act is ultimately unlawful as well, I must, as an officer of honor and integrity refuse that order," explained Lt. Watada.
Lt. Watada joins a growing number of high ranking military officers, West Point graduates and current and former members of the armed services who have expressed their opposition to the actions of the United States in Iraq.
People available for comment include: Eric Seitz, attorney for Lt. Ehren Watada; Bob Watada and Carolyn Ho, Lt. Ehren Watada's parents; Judy Linehan, of Military Families Speak Out, is the mother of a soldier who deployed to Iraq with Lt. Ehren Watada's Stryker Brigade in their first mission to Iraq.
Press Contacts: Cindy Sousa (206) 734-5040, David Solnit (510) 967-7377