Watada lawyer rebukes judge
Published Tue, Feb 6 2007 2:45 PM
Technorati Tags: News and Politics, War on Terror, Courts, Iraq
How to win a case? Or make it tougher to win? From the Seattle Times:
FORT LEWIS — First Lt. Ehren Watada's court-martial verdict could hinge on the Fort Lewis officer's own testimony when he takes the stand later this week to testify about why he refused to go to war.
Defense counsels hope Watada can gain the respect of the seven-officer military panel sworn in Monday and persuade the officers to reject an extended prison sentence of up to four years.
"The critical thing is that he be treated as someone who is principled," Eric Seitz, Watada's civilian defense counsel, said late Monday at a news conference. "Someone who is principled and has taken a stand. Not someone who should be treated as a criminal."
I have a problem with that. What Lt. Watada is accused of is a criminal offense. He's charged with disobeying a direct order. That's a criminal offense. He's charged, twice, with conduct unbecoming an officer. That's not a principled stand.
Monday, Seitz was a combative, sometimes defiant, presence in the courtroom as he rebuked the military judge, Lt. Col. John Head, for his rulings to restrict the scope of the trial.
The judge ruled to restrict the scope of the trial to the things that Watada is charged with. Seitz wants to make the trial a referendum on the legality of the Iraq war, and to put the administration on trial. He's trying to make the case a media circus and to politicize the trial.
Head has sought to keep the political backlash against the war from filtering into his courtroom. He refused to allow testimony from prominent critics of the Bush administration whom Seitz had sought to testify on Watada's behalf.
Head also issued an order restricting buttons or other shows of support for Watada from being worn inside the courtroom, according to Seitz. And at one point during the morning session, he called for defense counsel Seitz to "leave the dramatics at the door."
Here's the important bit... The facts of the case are not in dispute.
The trial is expected to last less than a week; the facts of the case are not in dispute. Watada has stipulated that he missed his brigade's deployment to Iraq in June, an offense that could bring up to two years in prison.
In court Monday, Watada also agreed to the accuracy of his statements attacking the war as illegal, the Army for committing war crimes, and the Bush administration for deceit. The Army contends these statements represent officer misconduct that could result in an additional two years in prison, while the defense counsel says his remarks represent protected free speech.
Civilian courts in the past have ruled on the free speech rights of commissioned officers. Under the UCMJ they are pretty restricted.
In my opinion Lt. Watada should be stripped of his rank and find himself breaking rocks for the next four years.
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