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Resister released but still not free

By Eric Ruder | May 4, 2007 | Page 5

MILITARY RESISTER Agustín Aguayo was released from confinement at a U.S. military base in Mannheim, Germany, on April 18, but he's still far from free.

"We thought he'd be home soon, but that hasn't happened," his wife Helga wrote in an e-mail to a supporter.

After trying to get conscientious objector status for nearly three years and facing his second deployment to Iraq, Agustín went absent without leave from the Army in late 2006. In March, a court-martial proceeding found Agustín guilty of desertion and missing movement. He was sentenced to eight months' confinement--and therefore was released after two months because he had already spent six months in detention.

Helga and his twin daughters thought he would be headed home, but now the Army says that it plans to keep Agustín on active duty for one to two years more. And he remains under the authority of members of his old unit--the same "people that tried to take him by force, i.e., shackle, handcuff and carry him onto the plane" for his second Iraq deployment, explained Helga.

What you can do

To learn more about Agustín's case and to donate to his defense fund, go to AguayoDefense.org on the Web.

Go to the Iraq Veterans Against the War Web site for news and updates about war resisters and other initiatives. Troops who need advice about their rights should go to the GI Rights Hotline Web site, or call 800-394-9544 from the U.S. or 510-465-1472 from outside the U.S.

 

"These were the same people that told me in front of our daughters that he could be put to death because he was a deserter," continued Helga. "The circumstances are not ideal, to say the least."

Agustín's case now goes to automatic appeal, and he and his family plan to continue the legal battle. Agustín's legal counsel thinks it's critical to get the conviction overturned for other soldiers who want to resist. "If that precedent is not reversed, it could have a negative effect on other people's cases," explained Agustín's attorney.

Helga says that they are asking the Army to listen to the conclusions of its own investigating officer. "I believe it is in the best interest of the Army and Pfc. Aguayo that he be separated from the military service based on the findings...all of which I believe to be strongly substantiated by the submitted evidence and hearing testimonies," wrote the officer.

Helga plans to prove to the military command that she and her family will not be intimidated. "Fear is what motivates the Army," wrote Helga. "Augie told me that the military is terrified he will do interviews. Which is why, I think, he didn't get his civilian clothes--just to make it harder for him [since he's not allowed to protest in uniform]...I know they fear others will follow. We need to continue our fight--and to continue it, we need your support."

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