|Mexico to help AWOL
El Universal, 23 February 2007
The Mexican government agreed this week to assist a Mexican-born U.S. Army medic who refused to return to Iraq and who could face up to seven years in prison when his court-martial opens at a U.S. military base in Germany
The Foreign Relations Secretariat said it would seek information on the health and legal situation of Agustín Aguayo, who faces charges of desertion and missing a troop movement. His application for status as a conscientious objector was denied, and he went absent without leave in September after being ordered to return to Iraq.
But it was unclear whether Mexico would provide legal assistance to Aguayo, who was born in Mexico but holds dual citizenship.
"International law prevents one country, in this case Mexico, from exercising diplomatic protection (for a citizen) against another country, the United States, of which he is also a citizen," the department said in a press statement.
However, given Aguayo´s "nationality of origin and the fact that his relatives are Mexican, the department has ordered the Mexican Embassy in Germany to offer consular assistance, which consists of using its good offices to gather information on the health and legal situation" of Aguayo.
The announcement came after Mexican officials met with Susana Aguayo, Agustín´s mother, who on Monday held a press conference in Mexico City to request the Mexican government appoint a lawyer for her son.
Mexico routinely provides consular assistance, sometimes including lawyers, to citizens jailed abroad.
Susana Aguayo said her son considers the war immoral.
"He made this decision to not continue with this war. I heard him say that he didn´t support this unjust, inhumane war," she said.
Aguayo, 35, has been arraigned at the U.S. Army´s Leighton Barracks in Wuerzburg, and is scheduled to go to trial March 6. Along with a prison sentence, he faces loss of pay, demotion to the lowest enlisted rank and a dishonorable discharge.
Aguayo served a year as a combat medic in 2004 in Tikrit, Iraq, after the military rejected his request to be considered a conscientious objector. He jumped out of a window of his base housing in Germany on Sept. 2 to avoid another tour with the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment.
Aguayo, a U.S. citizen who was born in Guadalajara, said he was not anti-war when he enlisted in 2002. But his military experiences changed his mind.