of Sandinista poet charged with desertion by US army solidarity
The case of Camilo Mejia, the first soldier to refuse to return to Iraq on grounds of conscience, is rapidly becoming a touchstone for both the anti-war movement and the US military. Mejia, a Nicaraguan who lives in the United States and who is the son of Carlos Mejia Godoy, Nicaragua's great poet/singer of the Sandinista Revolution, first went into hiding at the end of a two-week furlough, and then surrendered voluntarily to the military authorities, proclaiming himself a conscientious objector. The army is charging him with desertion. Speaking on Mejia's behalf, his lawyer Louis Font, said that once his trial date was sent - expected to be in two weeks - he thought the case would move rapidly forward, resulting in the complete exoneration of his client.
"I'm certain we'll be able to demonstrate to the court that Camilo is no criminal," he asserted. "We are tranquil and optimistic." Part of Font's serenity is based on the powerful array of defense witnesses he has marshaled. It includes UN weapons inspector Hans Blix, and former U.S. national security advisor Richard Clark. Font himself was a conscientious objector during the US war on Vietnam, and is a leading expert on military codes.
"We are going to win this," said Font. "Camilo is a conscientious objector. We're going to show that his arguments are completely valid; that in fact he was sent to a war based on lies and deception. We are counting on the testimony of these very powerful witnesses. Mr. Blix headed up an inspection commission to Iraq, while Mr. Clark testified before the September 11, 2001 Commission. And they're only our most important witnesses of a very long list which includes professors and specialists in international law who will show that the war on Iraq was never legal. As documentary evidence," he continued, "we will introduce everything that has been written about Camilo and his arguments, both in Nicaragua and here in the USA."
Although the defense attorney made no mention of any kind of mistreatment of Mejia, he did reveal that the prisoner had had significant restrictions placed on him. "For example," he said, "they have prohibited Camilo's access to the press, and limited his phone calls to either his family or to myself as his lawyer." Font, complaining particularly about the restriction on press interviews, said, "We can quite understand the military's concern. Camilo knows a great deal, and they're afraid of what he might say. However, this restriction really concerns us." He concluded by announcing that, despite everything, Mejia had recorded an eagerly-awaited clandestine interview, which would be shown on "60 Minutes."
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refusing to kill