You are herecontent / U.S. War Resister Agustín Aguayo to Be Released April 18th from U.S. Military Prison in Mannheim, Germany

U.S. War Resister Agustín Aguayo to Be Released April 18th from U.S. Military Prison in Mannheim, Germany


American Voices Abroad (AVA) Military Project
U.S. citizens living overseas supporting U.S. military personnel stationed overseas

Berlin, April 17, 2007 An Army spokesperson confirmed late today that U.S.
soldier Agustín Aguayo, 35, will be released from the U.S. military
detention facility in Mannheim tomorrow, but will likely remain in Germany
for at least some days for processing at his "home base" in Schweinfurt.
Most of Aguayo's unit in the Army's 1st Infantry Division has been deployed
to Baghdad since September.

Aguayo, a 35-year-old Mexican-American combat medic and the father of two
preteen daughters, has been confined in Mannheim since October 3rd. He has
served an eight-month prison sentence (with some time off for good
behavior), following his conviction at a U.S. Army general court martial in
Germany on March 6, 2007, on charges of desertion and of "missing movement."
Per the March 6th decision, he is also to receive a bad conduct military
discharge.

According the military spokesperson, Aguayo has filed an appeal within the
military justice system of the conviction of desertion, and he will
challenge the bad conduct discharge. He will not be discharged from the Army
until his military appeal has been considered, which could take up to a
year. However, he may request extended leave which, if granted, would enable
him to join his family in California.

In a separate civil court proceeding, Aguayo filed papers in the U.S. Court
of Appeals in Washington, DC, earlier this month for a rehearing of his
civil appeal challenging the Army's refusal to grant him an honorable
discharge as a conscientious objector (CO).

Peace activists in Germany say they will request that the German government
continue to investigate the Aguayo case and other cases concerning U.S.
soldiers. On February 27, 2007, German and U.S. activists from thirteen
leading peace organizations and networks in Germany wrote to the Members of
the German Parliament and to German government authorities: "We know that
the Aguayo case is only one of many cases in which human rights are violated
in U.S. military bases on German soil."
At the request of the President of the German Parliament, the Aguayo case is
presently being considered by a Petition Commission in the German
Parliament. Members of the German Parliament belonging to several political
parties have told the peace activists that they are considering initiatives
to ensure that German human rights standards are upheld on U.S. military
bases in Germany.

"Investigation by the German government comes too late to help Agustín,"
says Rassbach, "but we hope Germany will protect other U.S. soldiers
stationed here from similar abuses. Because so few are willing to join the
U.S. military these days, the Bush regime is putting extreme pressure on the
soldiers who are already enlisted. The Pentagon simply extends their
contracts against their will. U.S. soldiers today are required to serve, on
average, far more time in combat than was ever required of the GIs during
the Vietnam War, and this is taking its toll on them."

Like all other U.S. soldiers in Iraq, the soldiers in Aguayo's unit from
Schweinfurt learned last week that their tour of combat duty in Baghdad will
be extended to fifteen months, until at least December, 2007. Many are
serving a second or third tour of combat duty. 65,000 U.S. soldiers have
their "home base" in Germany.
Donations for the international campaign to support Aguayo and U.S. soldiers
in Germany:
Richard Forward, Account: 330011807, Postbank Munich, Routing Code: 700 100
80 Purpose: "International Aguayo Campaign" (Munich American Peace
Committee-AVA)Email: archforward@gmx.net

Background

The March 6, 2007, trial in Wuerzburg, Germany, of Army Specialist Agustín
Aguayo attracted broad international attention. The Mexican government made
a formal complaint and sent an observer from the Mexican embassy in Germany.
Amnesty International sent an observer from the United Kingdom and found
Aguayo to be "a prisoner of conscience."

The Army had initially threatened Aguayo with up to seven years in prison
and a dishonorable discharge. During the general court martial on March
6th, Army prosecutors pressed for a severe sentence on grounds that other
soldiers must be dissuaded from taking similar action. The Army judge,
Colonel Masterson, found Aguayo guilty of desertion and sentenced him to
eight months in prison and a bad conduct discharge.

At the court martial on March 6th Aguayo denied the desertion charge, but
pleaded guilty to "missing movement" and to being "absent without leave"
(AWOL). He testified that he deliberately avoided deploying with his unit
from Schweinfurt to Baghdad on September 2, 2006, stating could not, on
grounds of conscience, again serve in Iraq. At the end of his testimony, he
quoted the 16th-Century German religious reformer Martin Luther: "Here I
stand, I can do no more."

Born in Mexico, Aguayo obtained U.S. citizenship in 2000. He is the father
of two preteen daughters. He joined the Army for four years of active duty,
beginning in January, 2003, and was promised assistance with college debts
and training as a medic. He served as a combat medic in Tikrit, Iraq, for
one year beginning in February, 2004, and says that after joining the Army,
his beliefs "crystallized" that he could not take a life. He says that on
patrols and guard duty, he did not load munitions in his weapon.

In February, 2004, he filed a formal application for an honorable discharge
as a conscientious objector (CO), which the Army denied. A civil court in
Washington also denied his claim, but his appeal in the U.S. Court of
Appeals is still pending. In his statement to the civil court in August,
2006, he said that, on grounds of conscience, he would not deploy to Iraq
again.

After Aguayo deliberately absented himself when most of his unit deployed
from Schweinfurt to Baghdad early on the morning of September 2nd, he then
turned himself in to the Military Police in Schweinfurt, ready to go to
jail. However, rather than jailing him, his commander made arrangements to
bring him to Iraq later that day, "in handcuffs, if necessary."

Aguayo then fled and voluntarily turned himself in at the Army base in Fort
Irwin, California, 24 days later on September 26, 2007. A few days later,
his unit in Schweinfurt brought him back to Germany for pre-trial
confinement in Mannheim, pending the March 6th court martial.

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