Watada Trial Off to a Rocky Start
The court-martial of Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to refuse to go to Iraq, began on Monday with the judge refusing to allow most of the defense’s witnesses to testify. Watada’s civilian lawyer, Eric Seitz, had some harsh words for the judge: “If you are going to tie my hands and you are going to script these proceedings, then in my view we’re all wasting our time.”
1st Lt. Ehren Watada, 28, of Honolulu is charged with missing movement for refusing to ship out with his unit, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. He also faces charges of conduct unbecoming an officer for accusing the Army of war crimes and denouncing the administration for conducting an “illegal war” founded on “lies.”
As his court-martial got under way, military judge Lt. Col. John Head refused to allow almost all defense witnesses to take the stand. Head previously ruled that Watada’s attorney, Eric Seitz, could not debate the legality of the Iraq war in court.
If convicted, Watada could receive four years in prison and a dishonorable discharge. He has requested that his case be heard by a military panel of officers, the equivalent of a jury. It had not yet been selected by midday.
At one point, Seitz suggested Head could be committing judicial misconduct if he denied Seitz an opportunity to ask panel members biographical questions to determine any bias.
“If you are going to tie my hands and you are going to script these proceedings, then in my view we’re all wasting our time,” Seitz said.