Mistrial declared in court-martial of US Army officer opposing Iraq war


Jaime Jansen at 7:38 PM ET

The military judge overseeing the court-martial of US Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada declared a mistrial Wednesday after throwing out a pretrial agreement in which Watada admitted that he failed to deploy to Iraq with the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division in June. Watada was initially charged with missing troop movement, contempt toward officials, and multiple specifications of conduct unbecoming. The judge, Lt. Col. John Head, stated that the agreement was enough to find Watada guilty, and prosecutors moved for a mistrial because the jury had already seen the pretrial agreement. Head granted a new trial, which is tentatively scheduled for March.

Watada, a 28-year-old Honolulu native who is the first commissioned officer in the US military to publicly refuse deployment to Iraq, refuses to be classified as a conscientious objector because he does not object to war in general, just to the "illegal" war in Iraq. He offered to serve in Afghanistan, but the US Army refused. His vocal protests and participation in rallies by Veterans for Peace and Courage to Resist led to the charges of conduct unbecoming an officer and the original charge of contempt toward officials. Last month, Head ruled that Watada could not argue the legality of the war as part of his defense during his court-martial, and on Monday on the opening day of the trial Head directly barred international and constitutional law scholars from testifying on the point.