War Objector’s Court-Martial Ends In Mistrial

New trial set for Army lieutenant who refused to serve in Iraq.

The court-martial of Ehren Watada, an Army lieutenant who refused to deploy to Iraq, ended in a mistrial Wednesday (February 7) after a judge ruled that the soldier misunderstood a document he signed admitting to some of the charges against him.

(See Watada talk about the charges against him and why he refuses to go to Iraq in this video interview conducted before the mistrial.)

Military judge Lieutenant Colonel John Head, who set a March 12 date for a new trial, ruled that Watada intended to acknowledge that he did not go to Iraq with his unit in June but never meant to admit he had a duty to go there.

“I’m not seeing we have a meeting of the minds here,” the judge said, according to The Seattle Times. “And if there is not a meeting of the minds, there’s not a contract.”

Head said the admission of not going to Iraq was enough to find him guilty of missing troop movement, but Watada argued that he still had a case because he considers the war to be illegal and going there would be the equivalent to committing a war crime, he alleged.

In exchange for prosecutors dropping two charges against him of conduct unbecoming an officer, Watada, 28, of Honolulu, signed a 12-page stipulation of fact last month that also acknowledged making public statements criticizing the Iraq war. He still faces two other charges for conduct unbecoming an officer, as well as the missing movement charge.

According to The Associated Press, Watada could face four years in prison and a dishonorable discharged if convicted.