For immediate release:
Army Attempts to Bring U.S. Soldier in Germany to Iraq by Force
Aguayo sought by Military Police; first publicly known case of a soldier refusing to deploy from Germany to combat zones in Middle East
“Agustín Aguayo is a conscientious objector whose legitimate claim for an honorable discharge was wrongly denied,” says one of his attorneys, Peter Golberger. Aguayo, who is a medic, went AWOL only after a two and a half year struggle, including a civil court case in Washington, to be released from the Army as a CO. The appeal in the civilian court challenge is pending at this time, Goldberger said. A motion by government attorneys to reject Aguayo’s appeal summarily was denied by a panel of three judges on August 30th.
Aguayo already served a year in Iraq beginning in February, 2004. He applied for conscientious objector (CO) status and release from the Army shortly after he first arrived in Iraq. Despite an initial favorable review of his CO application by Army interviewers, the Army denied his CO application in August, 2004. In November, 2005, Aguayo filed a civil court case in the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC, to challenge the Army’s rejection of his CO application.
In Ausgust of this year, Aguayo told the court in DC that, on grounds of conscience, he would not deploy to Iraq again; nevertheless, he received an order to deploy to Iraq for a second time. After denying Aguayo’s request to be discharged as a conscientious objector, the Army even used the “stop-loss” provision authorized by President Bush to extend Aguayo’s active duty service obligation against his will past the agreed-upon four years in his enlistment contract. He was due to be released in January, but the Army ordered him to remain in Iraq until at least September, 2007.
On the morning of September 2nd, Aguayo turned himself in to the U.S. Military Police at the Schweinfurt military base and declared himself ready to be court-martialed for disobeying the order to deploy to Iraq, knowing that he could face a sentence of up to two years in prison. He had retained a German attorney, Christian Rieker of Frankfurt, to defend him at a court martial in Germany.
But Rear Detachment Commander Ricky Torres of the 1st infantry Division insisted on sending Aguayo to Iraq by force, in hand-cuffs if necessary. At about noon on September 2nd, as two sergeants waited in the Aguayo family living room for Aguayo to get his uniform and gear to deploy to Iraq, he jumped out of a back bedroom window to escape and has been in hiding for over a week.
The Army has cut off Aguayo’s pay and benefits, says his wife, Helga. She plans to fly on September 13th from Frankfurt to Los Angeles, where her and her husband’s families both live, to enroll their twin daughters, aged eleven, in school. “On the one hand, my daughters and I are very distressed by the way the U.S. Army has treated us all, but we are deeply proud of Agustin and support him fully,” says Helga. “I stand by my husband because I know he is sincere. I stand by him because I know he is right. God created all people, Christian, Muslim, Black, White — no one has the right to decide when it is time to kill someone. When the unit tried to take him by force to Iraq, what was he to do? If he is truly a conscientious objector than the only thing he could do was resist. He is a conscientious objector, but the Army forced him to become a war-resister.”
For Agustin Aguayo’s complete statement to the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC, and for background information about his case, go to http://agustin-aguayo.blogspot.com/
Eyewitness Account by Helga Aguayo: On September 2nd, at approximately 8:30 am, while Helga videotaped the event, Aguayo turned himself in to the Military Police in Schweinfurt. Then, she says, “(a)t 9:45 I got a call from Augie that he was being held at his unit’s headquarters. He told me they were bringing him home to get his uniform and Iraq stuff. He refused to grab his Iraq gear, but the sergeant escorting him told him he didn’t need to. He told Augie to put on the uniform and grab his toothbrush, a pillow, and a blanket. Augie refused. I thought maybe it was over, but then a short while later two sergeants came to our apartment and forced Augie to get his Iraq gear. He went to the back and jumped out a window. One of my daughters was skating in the front, and one sergeant chased her and demanded she tell him where he was. She was terrified and ran away. They came pounding on doors and searched the house three times, looking through all my personal things. And then the Rear-Detachment Commander and the 1st Sergeant came and went as far as to say that he would be put on that plane, even if he had to be put in handcuffs. They tried to intimidate me and were very harsh with their words.”
Aguayo Defense Fund: Over the past year and a half, several organizations helped raise legal fees for Aguayo’s civil court challenge of the Army’s denial of his CO application, including the German Mennonite Church, the Center for Conscience and War in Washington, and American Voices Abroad (AVA) Military Project, a network of U.S. peace activists living in Europe. Further funds are needed for legal costs, public education, and the immediate needs of the Aguayo family, since the Army has cut off his pay. To support the Aguayos, go to www.AguayoDefense.org