Iraq War vet fought for nearly three years for conscientious objector discharge, charged with desertion for refusing to return


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Courage to Resist. Updated January 25, 2007

Agustin Aguayo, a 35-year-old Army medic and conscientious objector, will face court martial on March 6. Aguayo was formally charged by the Army with desertion and missing movement. If convicted of these charges, Agustin faces a maximum of 7 years in prison and a felony conviction for following his conscience and refusing to participate in war. He is currently imprisoned at a military brig in Manheim, Germany awaiting court martial.

Nearly three years ago, Agustin applied for a conscientious objector (CO) discharge from the Army after being deployed to Iraq in February 2004. Agustin served a full one year tour of duty in Iraq, all the while refusing to load his weapon.

The Aguayo’s desperately need you financial support today. They are need to raise $5,000 immediately for Agustin’s legal defense for his upcoming court martial. This is only a fraction of their total legal and related expenses, but it will assure critical representation by civilian counsel. Donate

Also: Support Agustin Aguayo benefit dinner in San Francisco, Tues. Feb. 27 .

Despite initial favorable reviews of his application for discharge by Army interviewers, his application was later denied. In November 2005, Agustin filed an appeal in federal court challenging that denial. In September 2006 Agustin was again ordered to Iraq.

Having already lived the Iraq occupation war, Agustin mustered instead the courage to resist.

Army sergeants came to his base housing unit in Germany on September 2, 2006 to collect Agustin and his gear for immediate deployment to Iraq. While the sergeants waited in his living room, Agustin made a break of it out the back window.

“Agustín Aguayo is a conscientious objector whose legitimate claim for an honorable discharge was wrongly denied,” said one of his attorneys, Peter Golberger. “Aguayo 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.”

Three weeks later, with a convoy of supporters in tow, Agustin voluntarily returned to military custody at Fort Irwin in California’s Mojave Desert on September 24, 2006. One reason Agustin had for returning to the military was his pending federal court appeal. If had remained AWOL, the courts would have dismissed his claim.

Earlier that day Agustin stood before a large bank of reporters in front of Mission Los Angeles and made his case for resisting the Iraq war and affirming his commitment to peace. “I have come to believe that it is wrong to destroy life, that it is wrong to use war, that it is immoral, and I can no longer go down this path,” explained Agustin.

Less than a week later, he was imprisoned by the Army in Germany.


Helga Aguayo with her duaghters speaks to supporters in Santa Barbara 12/10/06.

Agustin’s wife Helga Aguayo, along with their two young daughters, have campaigned tirelessly for justice. In an open letter, she writes, “His/our decision to go against it all was quite frightening and overwhelming. It has been a mixed bag of joy to finally stand-up and say “NO MORE!”, and sadness to see Augie taken back to Germany in the hands of the very unit who vowed to leave ‘no stone unturned until they found him’… As hard as every second has been, we wouldn’t change it. How can I say that? Well, how can one regret the circumstances that have helped one reach personal freedom and enlightenment? Augie is free although he is in prison. His conscience will not be bogged down anymore. What he did allows him to live with his conscience and not contribute to the destruction of life. As for me, my eyes are wide open and no longer shut with ignorance.”

On November 21 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard Agustin’s appeal in his case against the Secretary of the Army for refusing to recognize that he is a conscientious objector. Helga Aguayo explained, “(Agustin’s) appeal is one of only a handful of Iraq War conscientious objector cases to reach the appellate level and is apparently the only one pending. His appeal is the first of its kind in 35 years since the Vietnam War. The decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals in the case of Aguayo vs. the Secretary of the Army will likely profoundly influence the willingness of the civilian courts to question the Executive’s refusal to honor the right of U.S. military personnel to exercise their freedom of religion, including the right — in accordance with conscience — not to participate in war. We are cautiously optimistic.”

Agustin Aguayo vs. the Secretary of the Army “Why This Case Is Important” by attorneys Peter Goldberger, James Klimaski, and J.E. McNeil

The decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals remains pending, and the court martial date has been set to begin on March 6. Agustin was arraigned on January 25 where formal charges were levied. The case was referred to trial on January 8 by Brig. Gen. David G. Perkins, the commander of the 7th U.S. Army Joint Multinational Training Command in Germany.

Meanwhile, Agustin’s 11-year-old daughter Rachel delivered this message to supporters in Santa Barbara on December 10:

“We are really proud of our father. He has taught us to stand up for what we believe in. So, we support him even though this has been really hard. We wish my dad was home. We think this is unfair and we want people to know that my father is such a good person and he does not deserve this. We are a strong family and we are going through this together. My father is not the only one suffering we all are. But he is standing up for what he believes in and we believe in him.”

Courage to Resist asks that our supporters and friends stand with Agustin Aguayo and show him and his family they are not alone in their struggle. We believe in him and his courageous stand against the unjust, immoral, and illegal war in Iraq. Those of us outside the military must match his bravery by escalating our support for Agustin and all military war objectors.

During a presentation to the Veterans for Peace National Convention in Seattle last August, Lt. Ehren Watada declared:

“Those wearing the uniform must know beyond any shadow of a doubt that by refusing immoral and illegal orders they will be supported by the people not with mere words but by action. 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.”

The Aguayo’s desperately need you financial support today. They are need to raise $5,000 immediately for Agustin’s legal defense for his upcoming court martial. This is only a fraction of $25,000 they need to raise for the two pending court cases, but they need $5,000 now to assure representation by civilian counsel.

Please make a financial contribution today! Courage to Resist is proud to support the Aguayo’s by hosting their defense fund.

Ways to support Agustin:

1. Donate to Agustin’s legal defense.

2. Forward this e-mail to friends and networks with a personal message asking for support for Agustin.

3. Host a house party to raise awareness of Agustin’s case. You can show a film, have a discussion, write letters of support, and ask for donations.

4. Ask your group or organization to organize a fundraiser in support of Agustin.

5. Send letters of support directly to Agustin.

“It makes a huge difference to have the support letters and gives him resolve and strength,” Helga Aguayo assures us.

Send letters of support to:

SPC Agustín Aguayo
Unit 29723 Box LL
APO, AE 09028-3810

For additional information about Agustin’s case visit:

To make a financial contribution to his defense fund visit: www.CouragetoResist/donate