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Army files new charges in Watada court-martial

The Army has filed a new round of charges against a Fort Lewis officer who refused to deploy to Iraq and spoke out publicly against the war, resurrecting a high-profile case aborted by a mistrial two weeks ago.

In a widely expected move, the Army on Friday filed the same charges against Lt. Ehren Watada that were brought against him in the wake of his refusal to board a plane bound for the Middle East on June 22.

Watada is charged with missing troop movement and conduct unbecoming an officer for statements critical of the Bush administration and the war that he made in speeches and to journalists.

Two of the four original specifications, or counts, for conduct unbecoming were dropped as part of a pretrial agreement with Army prosecutors before his court-martial began Feb. 5.

The judge declared a mistrial on the third day of proceedings after determining Watada didn't understand the agreement he had signed.

The judge determined Watada had inadvertently confessed guilt to an offense despite telling the judge otherwise.

If convicted on all counts, Watada faces up to six years in prison and dismissal, the equivalent of a dishonorable discharge from the military.

A new trial date hasn't been scheduled.

Watada's civilian attorney, Eric Seitz, maintained after the mistrial that his client couldn't be retried due to "double jeopardy," a constitutional protection that bars someone from being tried for the same offense twice.

He blasted the Army's decision to refile charges, telling The Associated Press he'd seek to have them dismissed.

"When it's not going well for you, you can't just call a mistrial and start over again," Seitz told the wire service. "No matter how much lip service they give to wanting to protect my client's rights, that just doesn't exist in the military courts."

Double jeopardy doesn't apply in this case because the court-martial didn't reach a "point of finality," said Leslie Kaye, a Fort Lewis spokeswoman. As a result, "The Army, or the government, has the authority to bring the case anew, which it did today," she said.

The refiled charges mean journalists could be subpoenaed to testify in Watada's second court-martial.

The Army and defense team had subpoenaed two journalists to verify the accuracy of the statements they attributed to Watada during interviews. But their testimony wasn't needed because in the pretrial agreement, Watada admitted to making those and other statements that served as the basis for the misconduct charge.

Without another agreement, which was the source of the mistrial, "it is a possibility that the reporters will be called," Kaye said. She reiterated that the Army would not ask for notes, tapes or the identity of anonymous sources.

Still, one of the subpoenaed journalists, Sarah Olson, a radio producer and independent journalist based in Oakland, Calif., has raised public concerns about her ability to gain the trust of sources if she participates in the prosecution of one of them.

Watada says he has a duty to not serve in a war he maintains is illegal and immoral, a stance that has won him accolades from anti-war groups and scorn from many military veterans who brand him a traitor. He attempted to resign his commission and serve in Afghanistan, but the Army refused those requests.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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