Lt. Ehren Watada

Anti-war organizers again subpoenaed by Army

July 26, 2007 Update

The second court martial of the Lt. Ehren Watada, the first military officer to public refuse to fight in Iraq, has been rescheduled for October 9. If the military is allow to carry out this trial—despite the clear prohibition against double jeopardy outlined in the Constitution—Lt. Watada’s trial would take place around the same time that his Stryker brigade (3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division) is scheduled to return from Iraq after a 15-month deployment.

Double jeopardy clearly applies in the case of Lt. Watada because the mistrial in the first court martial held in February was orchestrated by Army Judge John Head to the favor of the prosecution (which had already rested its case) over the strenuous objections of the defense. The Army Court of Criminal Appeals has yet to rule on the issue of double jeopardy.

Courage to Resist. July 9, 2007

On Friday, a pretrial hearing was held at Fort Lewis in the U.S. Army’s second attempt to court-martial Lt. Ehren Watada for refusing to deploy to Iraq in June 2006. Lt. Watada continues to argue that the Iraq war is illegal under U.S. and international law. During the first court martial in February, after over a thousand anti-war protesters gathered at the gates of Fort Lewis, military judge Lt. Col. John Head orchestrated a mistrial in order save the prosecutions weak showing prior to defense arguments. Now, this same judge plans on presiding over a new trial. Last week Judge Head ruled in support of himself, twice. First, Head claimed that he could be impartial claiming beyond credibility that he does not have an “intractable attitude or preconceived notions”. Second, he ruled that a new trial again wouldn’t violate Lt. Watada’s constitutional right not to be prosecuted twice for the same crime, known as double jeopardy.

The U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals has issued a partial stay in the court martial that remains in effect. While pretrial proceedings have been allowed to go forward, no court-martial can take place until the partial stay is lifted. If the current partial stay is lifted in time for the scheduled July 23 court martial, it is likely that the Federal Court of Appeals would step in to review the issue of double jeopardy.

During the pre-trial hearing, it came to light that Judge Head’s supervisor sent the judge an e-mail in February indicating she believed the mistrial did not create double-jeopardy issues and that a second court-martial could move forward. Lt. Watada’s new attorneys, Kenneth Kagan and James Lobsenz Kagan said the e-mail suggested there was pressure on Judge Head to rule a certain way.

Honolulu attorney Eric Seitz, who was Lt. Watada’s defense lawyer until March, said yesterday he wasn’t surprised by the outcome of the pretrial hearing. “I would expect they (the appeals court) would take the issues 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.”

Lt. Watada’s father Robert Watada remarked to the Honolulu Star Bulletin newspaper, “My own assessment is that it (the military court proceeding) was very much like a Salem witch trial. We fully expected this.” If the court martial is allowed to proceed, Robert Watada noted that it would probably be in October.

Washington State anti-war organizers again subpoenaed by Army

Phan Nguyen

Subpoenaed activist Phan Nguyen

Although few expect the Army to be able to retry Lt. Watada July 23-28 as they plan, the Army has again subpoenaed regional anti-war organizers to take the stand against Lt. Watada. Late last week, 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.” 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.

Subpoenas delivered to activists last week 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.” The military has not delivered subpoenas to either journalist.

On July 5, Watada supporters rallied and held a die-in at the San Francisco Federal Building that was widely covered by the San Francisco Bay Area press.

Important content of this article provided by Mark Jensen of United for Peace of Pierce County, Washington.