Muslim GI appeals for release

An American soldier who was imprisoned for refusing to fight against fellow Muslims in Iraq has said the US army has a moral duty to release him.

    Abd Allah Webster in happier times

    Abd Allah Webster, a former first class sergeant in the Engineers Brigade, is currently incarcerated at an American base in Mannheim, Germany.

    After his appeal for conscientious objector status was rejected in May, Webster was given a bad conduct discharge, had his salary suspended, and lost his pension and other benefits.

    An army tribunal recommended that he serve a 14 month sentence although this has yet to be confirmed.

    The soldier, who began his sentence on 3 June, says the Iraq war was illegal because the main reason for invading the country – to destroy its alleged weapons stockpiles – has been discredited.

    He now says it would be best if US troops withdraw from the country immediately.

    'Unjust war'

    Webster's wife, Susan, told "His faith is so important to him that if it were a choice between being executed and going to fight in Iraq he would just ask for time to say goodbye to his family before the execution date.

    "Islamic scholars say that Muslims can fight in a just war but not an unjust one. Abd Allah thinks this war is unjust - innocent people are dying for no reason."

    Webster says innocent people
    are dying in Iraq

    Abd Allah Webster says his grievance is not with his nation or the US army, but with individuals in the army and the bad decisions that were made to send the country to war.

    He claims most of his colleagues in his unit are against the US's Iraq campaign, but have not voiced their concerns because of the consequences.

    Moreover, Susan Webster said that people who would label her husband unpatriotic "are in no position to judge him until they have walked in his shoes".



    Abd Allah Webster, 37, has served in the US army for 18 years and saw active service in the first Gulf War and as a peacekeeper in Bosnia, Korea and Kosovo.

    Since 2001, he has been based in Bamberg, Germany.

    "His faith is so important to him that if it were a choice between being executed and going to fight in Iraq he would just ask for time to say goodbye to his family before the execution date"

    Susan Webster,
    Abd Allah Webster's wife

    When Webster refused on religious grounds in February 2004 to deploy to Iraq, charges were laid against him for failing to obey an order and missing his brigade's dispatch.

    The subsequent inquiry concluded Webster's conscientious objector application failed because his objection was not to war in general, but to the Iraq war in particular.


    Since his incarceration, Webster says he has been victimised by other inmates.


    A second concientious objector application submitted by Webster is currently being considered by the army.

    'Emotional strain'


    Webster's wife, a British citizen, told she is proud of her husband for taking a principled stand.

    "Given his distinguished service record it is ridiculous that he should be given such a harsh sentence," Susan Webster said.

    George Bush said he invaded Iraq
    to destroy Iraqi WMDs

    "Particularly so when you consider that Jeremy Sivits, who admitted torturing prisoners in Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq, was only given a one year sentence."

    Mrs Webster said the punishment meted out to her husband had placed "an immense emotional and financial strain" on the couple, who have a one year old daughter.


    Meanwhile, rights organisation Amnesty International is considering adopting Abd Allah Webster as a "prisoner of conscience".


    Army response


    Amnesty considers a conscientious objector to be any person who, for reasons of conscience or profound conviction, refuses to perform service in the armed forces or participate in wars or armed conflicts.


    Sharon Critoph, an Amnesty spokesman, said these criteria apply to those who are against all wars and those who are against specific wars, as in the case of Abd Allah Webster.

    "Given his distinguished service record it is ridiculous that he should be given such a harsh sentence"

    Susan Webster,
    Abd Allah Webster's wife

    She said: "We have to examine his case before making a decision but if we decide he meets our criteria and has taken reasonable steps to secure his exemption from military service then we will be calling for his release."

    The US army rules define a conscientious objector as someone who is opposed to war in any form, the US army told, and that Webster did not meet this standard.

    It said it did not have the authority to release soldiers when the requirements of its regulations were not met.

    Conscientious objectors


    The army declined to further comment on Webster's grievances because "criminal proceedings against him have not been finalised".

    But in a statement it said there was nothing to indicate that any members of Webster's company, other than himself, opposed the war.

    "Soldiers who join the US army volunteer and know the obligations of their service and their personal commitment to their fellow soldiers," the statement said.

    Since 2003, which roughly coincides with the start of America's campaign to invade Iraq, the US army has received 96 conscientious objector applications, 48 of which have been approved.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    We visualised 1.2 million votes at the UN since 1946. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the world today?

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.