Pretrial hearing for Watada set for mid-August
First Lt. Ehren Watada, who has refused to fight in Iraq, is expected to go before a military pretrial investigative hearing during the third week of August, his attorney said today.
Honolulu attorney Eric Seitz said government lawyers have tentatively scheduled Watada's Article 32 hearing to begin Aug. 17 or 18.
Watada, 28, faces three charges of missing a movement, contempt toward officials and conduct unbecoming an officer in his refusal June 22 to accompany his Army unit to Iraq.
The purpose of an Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a preliminary hearing in a civilian criminal proceeding, is to determine whether sufficient grounds exist to warrant a court-martial. It can also delete charges or add new ones if the investigation finds cause.
Seitz said that if convicted, Watada, a 1996 Kalani High School graduate, faces a maximum sentence of 7 1/2 years in prison, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and a dishonorable discharge.
On June 22, Watada stayed at the Fort Lewis headquarters for the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, while soldiers of the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat team boarded buses to McChord Air Force Base for the trip to Iraq. Watada has been reassigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, I Corps.
Watada enlisted in the Army in March 2003 -- the month that the U.S. invaded Iraq -- and was commissioned later that year. He served one tour in South Korea.
Watada has said that he would not object to serving in Afghanistan. In January, Watada told his commanders that he believed that the war in Iraq was unlawful and, therefore, so were his deployment orders.