Court hears arguement to halt Tuesday retrial
October 5, 2007 Update
By Courage to Resist. October 3, 2007
The Army announced today their intent to retry First Lt. Ehren Watada next week, Tuesday, October 9 at Fort Lewis, Washington. As scheduled, the retrial will be heard by the same military judge that orchestrated the February mistrial in order to give the prosecution a “do-over” after they rested their case against the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq.
Supporters of Lt. Watada and GI resisters are being urged to take action to highlight double jeopardy outrage!
Michael Wong, a member of the Watada Support Committee and Veterans for Peace, is working hard to mount a public response.
Mike Wong states:
This is in gross violation of law and the Constitution, because his lawyers have appealed against a second trial on the basis of double jeopardy. For quite some time, Ehren’s lawyers were proceeding on the assumption that since the appeal is in progress in the court system, the Army would cancel or postpone the October 9th court martial. But now it is only a week away, and nothing has been canceled or postponed. The trial is looking very much like it is on.
Friends and allies around the country are being encouraged to hold teach-ins, demonstrations, press conferences (if you have lawyers who can address the double jeopardy issue, please have them speak), write letters to the editors, anything you can do, on the weekend prior to October 9 and/or on the day of.
Members of Veterans for Peace and other supporters in the Pacific Northwest are planning to again converge at the gates of Fort Lewis on October 9—even if in smaller numbers than the thousand person rally for Lt. Watada and GI resisters during the first trial in February. Supporters are again planning on attending the court martial on Fort Lewis by arriving early at the main gate.
Army Col. Ann Wright, one of Lt. Watada’s attorneys, and supporters appeared this morning on KPFK Radio Los Angeles to talk about the case and upcoming actions.
Ehren’s parents, Bob Watada and Rosa Sakanishi, and Carolyn Ho will be again be attending the court martial, along with supporters traveling from at least as far away as the San Francisco Bay Area. Bob Watada believes that “The Army wants Ehren sent to prison, no matter what. No matter the constitution or double jeopardy.” It’s hard to argue with him.
Mike Wong explains:
In pre-trial motions, the Army judge, Lt. Col. Head (the same judge who lied and forced a mistrial when things didn’t go the Army’s way in the first trial), said that double jeopardy didn’t apply because they have “different rules” in the Army. When Ehren’s lawyers cited specific Army regulations and case law that proved double jeopardy does apply in the Army, the judge simply rejected the facts out of hand. The entire pre-trial motions were very scripted and controlled by the judge, who told the prosecution what to say and limited what the defense lawyers were allowed to say. The appeal is still in process and there are several layers of appeal yet to be exhausted before the appeal has run its course. It is clearly illegal and unconstitutional to hold a trial until the question of double jeopardy is finally resolved – but the Army is doing it. It appears that Ehren is about to be railroaded by a kangaroo court in which the whole proceeding will be very controlled and scripted and the outcome pre-determined. After they “convict” Ehren and put him in prison, perhaps the Army will then say that since he’s been convicted and imprisoned, the appeal is irrelevant and invalid. This is what is going down.
“There can be no question that the military judge acted precipitously and abused his discretion,” explained Lt. Watada attorney James Lobsenz.
Honolulu attorney Eric Seitz, who was Lt. Watada’s defense lawyer during the mistrial, said in July, “I would expect they (the appeals court) would take the issues [of double jeopardy] far more seriously than Judge Head is capable of doing. I would never expect Judge Head to reverse himself but would certainly expect the Appellate Court to do that,” Seitz said. “He was not the most competent judge I’ve met in my life.”
However, the Army Court of Criminal Appeals in Arlington, Virginia deferred in its decision to Judge Head, and the next of level of appeals—the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces—appears content to simply sit back and watch what happens without taking action.
Army again subpoenas anti-war activists
The Army again subpoenaed regional anti-war organizers to take the stand against Lt. Watada. Back in July, Seattle Veterans for Peace organizers Gerri Haynes and Tom Brookhart were re-subpoenaed to “verify remarks Lt. Watada made to the VFP National Convention last August.”
The remarks in question included:
Today, I speak with you about a radical idea. It is one born from the very concept of the American soldier (or service member). It became instrumental in ending the Vietnam War – but it has been long since forgotten. The idea is this: that to stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers can choose to stop fighting it. …
I tell this to you because you must know that to stop this war, for the soldiers to stop fighting it, they must have the unconditional support of the people. I have seen this support with my own eyes. For me it was a leap of faith. For other soldiers, they do not have that luxury. They must know it and you must show it to them. Convince them that no matter how long they sit in prison, no matter how long this country takes to right itself, their families will have a roof over their heads, food in their stomachs, opportunities and education. This is a daunting task. It requires the sacrifice of all of us. Why must Canadians feed and house our fellow Americans who have chosen to do the right thing? We should be the ones taking care of our own. Are we that powerless – are we that unwilling to risk something for those who can truly end this war? How do you support the troops but not the war? By supporting those who can truly stop it; let them know that resistance to participate in an illegal war is not futile and not without a future.
Understandably, Lt. Watada is currently not making public statements in order to avoid additional charges being “piled on” by the Army.
Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace activist Phan Nguyen was re-subpoenaed by the prosecution to explain how Lt. Watada’s initial June 7, 2006 press conference in Tacoma, Washington was organized.
These subpoenas read: “Enclosed is a copy of the travel order and subpoena for your production as a government witness in the court martial U.S. v. Watada. The trial is scheduled to take place from 23-28 July 2007. As the travel order states, the government will reimburse you for your mileage for all trips made to and from your place of residence to Fort Lewis, plus $40.00 a day attendance fees.”
Last February, Oakland, California based journalist Sarah Olson made national news by voicing her objection to being subpoenaed, along with Honolulu Star Bulletin writer Greg Kakesako, by the prosecution. Sarah Olson declared, “A member of the press should never be placed in the position of aiding a government prosecution of political speech. This goes against the grain of even the most basic understanding of the First Amendment’s free press guarantees and the expectation of a democracy that relies on a free flow of information and perspectives without fear of censor or retribution.” In an interesting twist to the trial replay, the military has opted not deliver subpoenas to either journalist.
“Do whatever the hell you can”
Mike Wong sums up the situation, “Plans are being thrown together at the last minute, and as of now I can’t tell you exactly what will happen or what plans different peace groups might develop. Basically we are all flying by the seat of our pants and I would say to everyone everywhere, just do whatever the hell you can do with whomever is willing to do it with you.”
Mike Wong can be contacted at [email protected]
For more information: www.thankyoult.org