Federal Judge Delays Watada's Trial - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Federal Judge Delays Watada's Trial

By Mari-Ela David

WASHINGTON (KHNL) - It's a case that captured national attention, and tonight, the spotlight is back on a Hawaii-born soldier who refused to fight in the war in Iraq.

In a rare move, a federal judge has intervened in First Lieutenant Ehren Watada's trial.

Civilian courts don't normally step in and get involved with military trials. Whether the civilian judge had a right to block Watada's trial Friday is still in question. Nonetheless, Watada's attorney, Ken Kagan, says the ruling is the kind of relief they've been fighting for.

The legal battle over Watada's decision to stand-up against the war, instead of fight for it, has taken a direction in his favor - at least for now.

"As you can imagine Lt. Watada is feeling incredibly relieved that A, he's not going to have to go to trial on Tuesday and B., that somebody finally is going to take this case seriously and give it a meaningful review," says Kagan.

Watada was supposed to go to military court Tuesday, but U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle ordered the army to delay the trial until further notice.

"We went to court Thursday, the federal court here in Tacoma Washington, and asked the judge to stop it because Lt. Watada would have his constitutional rights violated," says Kagan.

Violated because Watada would have been tried a second time for the same charges - according to Kagan, that's double jeopardy. Watada's first court-martial ended earlier this year in a mistrial. His legal fate is expected to be determined in at least three weeks.

Watada faces charges for refusing to deploy to Iraq with his unit June 2006, saying the war is illegal and therefore subjects his soldiers to war crimes.

His trial is on hold until the October 26th.

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