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Institute for Public Accuracy
MAY 18, 2004
2:02 PM
CONTACT:  Institute for Public Accuracy
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020
Soldier Facing Court-Martial Blew Whistle on Torture

WASHINGTON - May 18 - On Wednesday, the court-martial of Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia begins at Ft. Stewart in Georgia. After returning for a period from Iraq, Mejia was AWOL for several months, and then filed for conscientious objector status. He has publicly spoken out on the war, saying: "I could not continue to do the things I was doing in Iraq.... I'm completely against it because it's an oil-motivated war."


Director of Citizen Soldier, a GI and veteran rights advocacy organization, Ensign is at Ft. Stewart and has closely followed Mejia's case. Ensign said: "When Sgt. Mejia surrendered at Ft. Stewart on March 16, 2004, he submitted a formal application for discharge as a conscientious objector to Major General William G. Webster Jr., Commanding General of the base. On pages 29-32 of this application, Mejia provides details of the torture and abuse of detainees which he witnessed at Al-Assad [detention facility] in early May 2003."


Author of the book Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, Ellsberg faced 115 years on 12 felony counts in 1971 for leaking the Pentagon Papers. Ellsberg said today: "In the special court-martial of Sgt. Mejia in Georgia on Wednesday, the wrong man is on trial. If Monday's revelations by Seymour Hersh are confirmed, on the personal responsibility of Donald Rumsfeld and President George W. Bush for treatment of prisoners amounting to torture, they should both resign or be impeached and tried by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for war crimes. Sgt. Mejia served his country bravely and well in Iraq; but he is serving his country better, and just as bravely, in his publicly-announced refusal to participate further in what he correctly identifies as an illegal war using illegal means. That is also true of his role in being one of the first to expose serious American violations of the Geneva Conventions on treatment of prisoners, which as ratified treaties have the status, with the Constitution, of the highest law of the land. Mejia's commendation ... cites his 'courage and commitment' ... Those words apply exactly to his present stance..."


Currently at Ft. Stewart, Maritza Castillo is Mejia's mother. She is available for interviews in Spanish.


Norma Castillo and Alexis Castillo are aunt and uncle to Camilo Mejia. They are also at Ft. Stewart. Norma said today: "Camilo did nothing wrong. This was an economically motivated war based on lies. We are very proud of what he is doing. Now the military is trying to make it difficult for media to cover the trial; they say they will allow only two pool reporters in at any one time."


Fernando Suarez del Solar (whose primary language is Spanish) is the father of Jesus Alberto Suarez del Solar Navarro, who died in Iraq on March 27, 2003. He will be arriving at Ft. Stewart late Tuesday. He said today: "Mejia's voice represents thousands in the military who feel the same."


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