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Tuesday, Jan 30, 2007, 12:53 pm

Defend the Press Coalition, Sarah Olson, Declare Victory in Watada Court Martial

By Brian Zick
The Honolulu Advertiser reports
The U.S. government has agreed to drop two charges that carried a maximum of two years in prison against Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, his lawyer said Monday.

As part of the agreement, two reporters who had been issued subpoenas to appear before the court-martial will not have to testify, the lawyer said.

"By agreeing beforehand to all of the facts the government would ask of the ... reporters, Lt. Watada shielded these journalists from the heavy-handedness of the government," said Eric Seitz, lead attorney for Watada. "While we don't think any charges should have (been) filed at all for simply exercising free speech, we are pleased with the government's willingness to reduce Lt. Watada's potential sentence by two years."

The 28-year-old Honolulu native had been facing two years in prison on charges of missing a troop movement, and four additional years imprisonment on four counts of conduct unbecoming an officer for his public statements critical of the Iraq war.

The Center for Media and Democracy has issued a statement:
"This is surely a great victory for journalist Sarah Olson and our Defend the Press coalition," said John Stauber, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy of Madison, Wisconsin. "This is a testament to what one determined and courageous reporter, Sarah Olson, can accomplish in the face of government intimidation. These subpoenas were simply an effort to harass journalists who are reporting on the growing anti-war sentiment among rank and file soldiers. This is a blow for press freedom and for free speech."
via Tracy Van Slyke
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