Pagan Iraq veteran's conviction spawns protests

29th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

29 March 2005, DARMSTADT - A US military court in Germany sentenced an Iraq combat veteran soldier to seven months in prison for refusing to carry out orders, spawning protests on Tuesday by German peace activists demanding his release on religious grounds.

29 March 2005

DARMSTADT - A US military court in Germany sentenced an Iraq combat veteran soldier to seven months in prison for refusing to carry out orders, spawning protests on Tuesday by German peace activists demanding his release on religious grounds.

Army Specialist Blake Lemoine, who returned to Germany in May 2004, told a news conference sponsored by anti-war activists that his duties as an ordained pagan minister were in conflict with his job in the Army. He admitted having voluntarily joined the Army, but said a spiritual awakening had caused him to change his mind.

Judge Colonel Denise Lind convicted Lemoine, a US Army generator repair mechanic, of refusing to obey a lawful order.

Lemoine said during the tribunal proceedings that he wants out of what he called a "slave" contract that keeps active-duty soldiers beholden to the US government after they have left the army.

He had been scheduled to be discharged 13 February, but under military rules had to extend his service until 13 October in order to bring his wife over from the United States.

Lemoine, 23, from Moraville, Louisiana, is with the 5-96th Maintenance Company of the 16th Combat Support Group.

An Army statement said he was charged with refusing to perform his duty in Darmstadt, south of Frankfurt, "on diverse occasions between 10 January and 15 February 2005, despite being repeatedly ordered to do so by his commanding officer".

Lemoine's arguments have drawn the backing of peace activists in Germany who demanded his immediate release.

A spokesman for the Offenbach-based Connection peace group issued a statement on Tuesday accusing the US Army of violating the US Constitution's guarantees of freedom of religious belief.

The peace activists claim Lemoine has gone on a hunger strike to win discharge from the Army.

DPA

Subject: German news

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