'FREE MY JAILED ARMY HUSBAND'

Charlotte Hart, Sutton Coldfield Observer, 15 April 2005, page 1

EXCLUSIVE by Charlotte Hart News Editor

An Erdington woman is fighting for the release of her husband after he was jailed for opposing the war in Iraq.

US citizen Abdullah William Webster was sentenced by an American court martial in June last year to 14 months in prison - of which he has served ten - after his request to become a conscientious objector was thrown out by military chiefs.

"An abiding memory I have is of him being led off back to his cell as I watched distraught, in tears, holding our 22-month-old daughter in my arms," said his wife Sue.

"Far from being a deserter or a coward, my husband is a brave man with principles who is being punished for his conscientiously-held beliefs.

"The US Army, the profession that he loves, has betrayed my husband," she claims.

"Since when did opposing a controversial war make you a criminal?"

Now the desperate teacher - who met her husband when he visited Erdington on leave several years ago - is relying on Amnesty International to help free the former sergeant.

"Things have been dreadful but at least there has been new strength in solidarity" Mrs Webster added.

Amnesty International has adopted Mr Webster, aged 37, as a prisoner of conscience and has called for his release and restoration of his rank and privileges.

Amnesty's members have sent cards and letters to him in prison - supporters have written to him from Belgium, France and the UK.

"Mr Webster was sentenced by a US court martial for refusing to participate in the war in Iraq on the basis of his religious beliefs said an Amnesty International campaigner.

"His application for conscientious objector status had been rejected and his request to be transferred to non-combat duties turned down.

"When he refused to deploy to Iraq in February 2004, he was charged with failing to obey commands from his superior and missing his brigade's movements," he added.

Mr Webster, due to retire this year, is a US citizen who has served in the American Army since 1985.

He was based in Germany with Sue when his orders came to fight.

Sue claims that for the last six months Abdullah has been locked up at Fort Lewis in Washington State, USA, and has had no contact with her or their daughter. He is also suffering, she alleged, from the effects of high cholesterol, has had to endure hours without food and water and has been

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banned from carrying out Islamic rituals.

As a result of the sentence, Mr Webster is also likely to lose his pension and other benefits to which he would have been entitled.

Amnesty International is calling for support for the campaign to free Mr Webster and return him home to his wife and daughter.

The charity is asking people write in any language, and as soon as possible, calling for the soldier to be released immediately and unconditionally, with restoration of his pension and other benefits, and pointing out that Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience.

It also wants people to express serious concern at reports that he has not been receiving adequate medical attention; seek assurances that he is now being given proper medical care and ask for assurances that he is being granted the right to perform religious duties in detention.

Appeals should be sent to Raymond F Dubois, Acting Secretary of the Army, 102 Army Pentagon, Room 3E588, Washington DC 20310-0102, USA or faxed on 001 703 697 0720.

Letters of support can also be sent to Lieutenant Commander Anthony Cruz, Commanding Officer, Fort Lewis Corrections Facility, Fort Lewis, building number 1450, Washington 98433, USA. The Lieutenant Commander can also be faxed on 00 1 253 967-6579 or emailed on RCF@Lewis.Army.MIL