DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Interfaith Alliance of Hawaii held a rally at the state Capitol yesterday in support of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who refused to deploy to Iraq with his Fort Lewis, Wash., unit because he believes the war is illegal. His mother, Carolyn Ho, talked to the crowd that gathered. Danny Li, Scott Cade and Robert Lucid were holding signs.
Pro-Watada group gathers
The Army officer's attorney plans to call three witnesses
As he faces the possibility of being the first Army officer to face a court-martial for refusing to fight in Iraq, 1st Lt. Ehren Watada knows he has the backing of plenty of people.
Yesterday, a diverse group of church clergy and representatives gathered before the Father Damien statue at the state Capitol to express their support for the 28-year-old Army officer.
And when Watada faces a pretrial Article 32 hearing in a small Fort Lewis courtroom in Washington State tomorrow, he's expected to have 188 letters of support from clergy, combat veterans and organizations throughout the United States, including support from as far as Australia. The hearing will help Army officers decide whether to recommend a court martial.
Among those who gathered in front of Father Damien's statue were clergy and church representatives from the Interfaith Alliance of Hawaii; Honpa Hongwanji Buddhist Mission; United Methodist Church; Kahaluu United Methodist Church; Honpa Hongwanji Betsuin; Hawaii Inclusive Orthodox Church; Muslim Association of Hawaii; United Church of Christ; and First Unitarian Church.
Watada's attorney, Eric Seitz, left last night for Fort Lewis. He said the Army has told him that it only plans to call one witness in the first day of the hearing. That Army witness is being called to verify that Watada, an artillery officer, failed to join his unit, the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, when it boarded buses and left Fort Lewis on June 22.
Seitz said the Army also plans to use news clippings and video news reports to argue its charge of contempt toward officials.
The maximum punishment for missing a movement is two years in prison, an dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of all pay and allowances.
Seitz plans to call three witnesses who will argue that the war in Iraq is illegal and the law required Watada to refuse to participate in an illegal war.
Seitz said he expects the pretrial hearing officer to recommend a court-martial, which could be held within three months.