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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 3:56 p.m., Friday, September 15, 2006

Army adds one charge in Watada's war objector case

Associated Press

The Army has added another allegation of conduct unbecoming an officer to the charges pending against war objector Lt. Ehren Watada, though the base commander still has not made a decision on whether the case will proceed to a court martial.

Watada, 28, of Honolulu, refused to deploy on June 22 with his unit based in Fort Lewis, Wash. because he believes the Iraq war is illegal. He was accused of missing troop movement, conduct unbecoming an officer and contempt toward officials, including using "contemptuous words" against President Bush in media interviews.

The new charge is based on Watada's remarks to the national convention of Veterans for Peace, held in Seattle on Aug. 12-14, Army spokesman Joe Piek said today.

Conviction on all charges could bring a maximum of seven years in prison, Piek said. Backers and Watada's attorney said, however, the total charges could add up to eight years

At the veterans gathering, Watada said that "to stop an illegal and unjust war, soldiers can choose to stop fighting it," according to a support group, Friends and Family of Lt. Watada.

The Fort Lewis commander, Lt. Gen. James Dubik, will decide whether the case proceeds to court martial, Piek said. Last month, investigating officer Lt. Col. Mark Keith recommended that Watada be court-martialed.

"The Army's unwillingness thus far to seek any reasonable solution or outcome of this situation certainly has placed Lt. Watada into a position where he has little or no choice but to vigorously defend himself against charges that we submit are extravagant and unjustified," Eric Seitz, Watada's civilian defense attorney, wrote in a rebuttal submitted to the military court in August.

Advertiser reporter William Cole contributed to this report.