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Iraq War Objector Charged

An Army lieutenant who said he refused to deploy to Iraq because he believes the war there is illegal was charged Wednesday with three counts, including conduct unbecoming an officer.

According to calculations by military lawyers, 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, 28, could face nearly eight years in prison and a dishonorable discharge if convicted, said his attorney, Eric Seitz of Honolulu. Watada is charged with conduct unbecoming an officer, missing movement and contempt toward officials.

Watada, a member of the first Stryker Brigade Combat Team, refused to go to Iraq last month after researching the war. He said he would be willing to serve in Afghanistan or elsewhere. The Army refused to allow him to resign his commission.

Watada's stance prompted rallies of support near Fort Lewis, in Seattle and in Honolulu, his hometown.

Watada's father said he is worried the military may send his son to prison but he is also hopeful a military court will find him innocent.

Bob Watada said his son was doing his duty to uphold the U.S. Constitution by declining to participate in an "illegal war" and so he should be exonerated.

"I can't say I don't care," about the potential for prison time, the elder Watada said during an interview in Honolulu. "That concerns me very much, but I guess on the other hand I'm just optimistic justice will prevail."

A preliminary hearing will be held to determine whether Watada will be court-martialed.

Watada has said he did not apply for status as a conscientious objector because he is not opposed to war in principle, just the war in Iraq.

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