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BTL:Army Conscientious Objector Who Opposed Abuse of Iraqi Civilians and...

...Prisoners Sentenced to 1 Year in Prison for Desertion~ Interview with Maritza Castillo, mother of Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia Castillo, conscientious objector convicted of desertion, conducted by Between the Lines' Melinda Tuhus
Army Conscientious Objector Who Opposed Abuse of Iraqi Civilians and Prisoners Sentenced to 1 Year in Prison for Desertion

Interview with Maritza Castillo, mother of Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia Castillo, conscientious objector convicted of desertion, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

On May 21, Iraq War veteran Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia Castillo was convicted of desertion and sentenced to one year in a military prison. Mejia, who is a citizen of Costa Rica, spent his teenage years in the U.S., where his mother became a naturalized citizen, but he did not. He joined the National Guard at 19 to earn money for college. He was two months short of completing his eight-year Army hitch when he was sent to Iraq. After serving six months there, he returned to the U.S. on a two-week furlough and was then ordered to return to Iraq -- even though he had fulfilled his contractual obligation; the Pentagon's "stop loss" order directed him and thousands of other soldiers to serve beyond their standard tours of duty. Mejia, a member of the Florida National Guard, refused to return to his unit in Iraq, citing moral reasons, the illegality of the war and the conduct of U.S. troops towards Iraqi civilians and prisoners.

He requested discharge as a conscientious objector. The Army chose to prosecute and sentence him, despite a pending decision on his application for conscientious objector status. Mejia contends that a treaty between the U.S. and Costa Rica, which has no army, establishes that a Costa Rican citizen cannot be forced to extend his military service in the U.S. His one-year sentence for desertion was the maximum he could have received, since he was not charged with desertion under fire. He is the first soldier known to be tried for "desertion" after service in combat in the current Iraq conflict. One of his lawyers, Ramsey Clark, spoke of "the incredible irony that we're prosecuting soldiers in Iraq for violations of international law and we're prosecuting a soldier here because he refused to do the same things." Mejia is appealing his conviction.

Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus spoke with Maritza Castillo, Mejia's mother. She talks about what led to her son's decision to refuse his military orders, and about her efforts to free him, supported by groups such as Military Families Speak Out and Amnesty International. Camilo's father, Nicaragua's best-known revolutionary singer-songwriter, Carlos Mejia Godoy, is also doing everything he can to help his son.

For more information on efforts to free Camilo Mejia Castillo, visit the website, www.freecamilo.org.

Related links:

"Camilo Mejia Goes to Prison for His Stance Against the War in Iraq, While a Campaign to Free Camilo Begins," CommonDreams.org, May 24, 2004

LISTEN to this week's half-hour program of Between The Lines by clicking on one of the links below:

www.btlonline.org
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"Between The Lines" is a half-hour syndicated radio news magazine that each week features a summary of under-reported news stories and interviews with activists and journalists who offer progressive perspectives on international, national and regional political, economic and social issues. Because "Between The Lines" is independent of all publications, media networks or political parties, we are able to bring a diversity of voices to the airwaves generally ignored or marginalized by the major media. For more information on this week's topics and to check out our text archive listing topics and guests presented in previous programs visit: httC://www.btlonline.org
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"Between the Lines," WPKN 89.5 FM's weekly radio news magazine can be heard Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m. ET; Wednesdays at 8 a.m. ET and Saturdays at 2 p.m. ET (Wednesday's show airs at 7:30 a.m. ET during fundraising months of April and October).
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