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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Judge Temporarily Blocks Retrial of an American Hero, First Lieutenant Ehren Watada

REJOICE!!!! Today in a court room in Tacoma, Washington, First Lieutenant Ehren Watada received from Judge Settle of the federal court a ruling in his favor!! I just got off the phone with another support team member from NCRR who I attended the court martial with in February. We are absolutely beside ourselves with joy, because in his ruling, Judge Settle ruled EXACTLY as he should have, for if you were in the court room that day like we were, you would KNOW, Judge Head mishandled the case and the mistrial should NOT have been called only to try to go back to square one and try it all over again differently because it was NOT going well for the prosecution.
The case is not quite over yet, but from all appearances, Ehren will NOT be tried again.

Judge temporarily blocks war objector's court-martial


TACOMA, Wash. -- A federal judge has temporarily blocked the Army from conducting a second court-martial of an Iraq war objector based at Fort Lewis, saying it's likely the second trial would violate the soldier's constitutional rights.

Granting an emergency motion for a stay, U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle ruled Thursday that no court martial will be held for 1st Lt. Ehren Watada pending the outcome of his claim that it would violate his Fifth Amendment rights by trying him twice for the same charges.

Watada's first court-martial ended in a mistrial in February; Settle wrote that the military judge likely abused his discretion in declaring the mistrial.

Watada is charged with missing his unit's deployment to Iraq in June 2006 and with conduct unbecoming an officer for denouncing President Bush and the war. If convicted, he could be sentenced to six years in prison and be dishonorably discharged.

Watada contends the war is illegal and that he would be party to war crimes if he served in Iraq. The Army refused his request to be posted in Afghanistan or elsewhere.

"This is an enormous victory, but it is not yet over," Kenneth Kagan, one of Watada's attorneys, said in a statement.

Settle did not indicate what the next steps would be.

Fort Lewis spokesman Joseph Piek said the judge acted "so that he may hear further evidence on the double jeopardy issue.

"We look forward to the opportunity to file additional briefs to further explain to the District Court judge the full extent of the protections and safeguards" afforded under the military justice system at the trial court and appellate levels, Piek added in a statement.

On Oct. 5, Settle ruled that his court had jurisdiction on the request for an emergency stay and that Watada's claim was "not frivolous." That ruling effectively blocked the scheduled Oct. 9 start of the second court-martial. The judge then asked for additional briefs, leading to Thursday's ruling.

Watada's term of service in the military ended in December, but the legal proceedings have prevented his discharge. He lives in Olympia and continues to perform administrative duties at Fort Lewis, south of Seattle.


Watada court-martial now less likely


The chances of a second court-martial for 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, the Fort Lewis officer who refused to go Iraq because he believes the war there illegal, became far less likely Thursday. A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against a second-court martial.

Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle of Tacoma temporarily stopped the court-martial, which was to begin Oct. 9.

In his ruling Thursday, Settle said that Watada would "suffer irreparable harm" should he be tried a second time and that the Army lieutenant would likely prevail at a full trial if he argued that a new court-martial would violate his constitutional protection against double jeopardy.

Watada's court-martial in February ended in a mistrial, over his objections, after evidence had been heard but before a panel of officers began deliberating.

His attorneys argue that a new court-martial would constitute trying Watada twice for the same offenses.


From Ehren's website, (please go there to read in full)

In his decision, Judge Settle made the following significant points:

1. The remedy sought by Lt Watada (i.e., a writ of habeas corpus in a pretrial setting), while rare, is appropriate;

2. Lt Watada will suffer irreparable injury if relief is denied;

3. Lt Watada is likely to succeed on the merits;

4. Judge Head abused his discretion in rejecting the Stipulation of Fact;

5. Even if Judge Head did not abuse his discretion in rejecting the Stipulation of Fact, there was still a lack of "manifest necessity;"

6. Judge Head failed to adequately consider possible alternatives;

7. The balance of potential harms weighs in Lt Watada's favor; and

8. The public interest favors granting relief.

Read Judge Settles full ruling (33 pages long)>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>



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