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Federal Court rules on Watada case..

Big Win for Watada: A Study in Courage and Honor
By Bill Simpich
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Sunday 11 November 2007

On Thursday, November 8, Hon. Benjamin Settle, a federal court judge, issued a preliminary injunction halting any further court-martia l proceedings of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada and effectively ruling against the Army on virtually every issue in the case. This injunction not only extends the stay until the conclusion of the habeas corpus proceedings, but also addresses the specific request for relief from further legal proceedings, stating, “the remedy sought by Petitioner, while rare, is appropriate. ”

Although the Army issued a press release claiming to “look forward to the opportunity to further explain to the District Court judge the full extent of the protections and safeguards that are afforded to a military accused,” (Seattle Times, 11/9/07), anyone who glances at the court ruling will agree that the Army’s only lingering hope is to appeal this ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge Settle wrote “for several reasons … it is likely that [Lt. Watada] will succeed on the merits of his double jeopardy claim” (Order, p. 22; a copy of the order is attached). The court held that the military judge acted “irrationall y, irresponsibl y, precipitatel y” (Order, page 31) in failing to consider feasible alternatives to a mistrial, and there was no good reason to stop the proceedings.

This ruling came after the repeated refusal of the military appeals courts to free Lt. Watada of the burden of a second court-martia l. Lt. Watada’s attorneys have consistently argued that the military should not be allowed a “do-over.” The military judge halted the first court-martia l in the wake of admissions by prosecution witnesses regarding Lt. Watada’s integrity and statements that Lt. Watada’s decision not to deploy was an act of conscience.

Bill Simpich is a civil rights attorney based in San Francisco.To read the rest of his commentary on this ruling, click here.

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