Lt. Ehren Watada's Attorney Asks For Charges To Be Dropped

Lieutenant Ehren Watada
Lieutenant Ehren Watada
Eric Seitz
Eric Seitz

By Beth Hillyer

(KHNL) - With his court martial just a month off, there's some important legal wrangling going on in the case of the Hawaii soldier who refused to deploy with his unit.

Army Lt. Ehren Watada's lawyer asked a military judge to drop some charges during a pre-trial hearing Thursday in a Fort Lewis, Washington.

Watada faces two years confinement for refusing to deploy to Iraq with his Stryker Brigade.

Charges of conduct unbecoming an officer could add on four more years.

Watada's attorney Eric Seitz is asking the judge to drop this charge.

The Army has rules about what officers can say in public.

In Watada's web video he states, "That the war in Iraq is not only morally wrong, but a horrible breach of American law."

Army prosecutors say Watada's speeches and online messages against the war are criminal.

Seitz argues Watada was simply exercising free speech.

"He was raising controversial issues and he was stating his own opinions on those controversial issues and we believe it's absolutely impermissible inside the military or outside the military to punish punish people for being engaged in that kind of speech," Seitz said.

Seitz is asking to put on a "Nuremberg Defense" and argue that Watada failed to deploy because doing so would be equal to participating in an illegal war.

But the judge seemed skeptical applying that argument would essentially mean that every soldier in Iraq is a war criminal.

"Individual soldiers need to make up their own winds because if they are ultimately because at some point, if they are going to be held accountable for what they did or what they were apart of they will not be able to defend themselves on the grounds that they were just following orders," Seitz added.

Watada's parents are in Washington for this hearing.

"Oh, we're very proud of him. We're very proud that he's standing up for his country," said Bob Watada, Ehren's father.

And in Honolulu, anti -war protestors held signs in support of Watada.

Their banners call Operation Iraqi Freedom an illegal war and they thank Watada for his stand.