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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 9:58 p.m., Sunday, November 19, 2006

Watada supporters hold forum at UH

Advertiser Staff

Bob Watada, whose son, Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, is facing a general court-martial for refusing to deploy to Iraq, said this afternoon that his son is speaking out on behalf of other soldiers who oppose an illegal war.

"Ehren is standing up for the soldiers," Watada told an afternoon forum on his son's case by the Japanese American Citizens League's Honolulu chapter. "He's for the soldiers."

The Japanese American Citizens League's Honolulu chapter — after a close vote — has chosen to fully support Watada, a 1996 Kalani High School graduate. But the league's national organization has decided not to take a position on his refusal to deploy while expressing concern about his free speech rights.

Today's forum, at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa, was held to build public awareness and support for Watada's legal fight. His father, his attorney, Eric Seitz, and UH-Manoa constitutional law professor Jon Van Dyke defended Watada's actions as courageous and justified. No one from the Army was invited to present an opposing view.

Lt. Watada in the summer refused to deploy to Iraq with his Stryker brigade, based at Fort Lewis, Wash., and made comments critical of the war that were reported in the news media. He is charged with missing troop movement, conduct unbecoming an officer and contempt toward officials. Pre-trial motions are set for January and a trial is scheduled for February. He could be sentenced to six years in military prison if convicted.