US army Iraq veteran guilty of refusing orders


A US military court convicted a 23-year-old Army mechanic of wilfully disobeying orders for refusing to perform duties after a year-long tour of Iraq, an army spokesman said today.

Specialist Blake Lemoine, who returned to Germany in May 2004, said he wanted to quit the army due to religious beliefs.

The special military court sentenced Lemoine to seven months confinement, reduction in rank to private and gave him a bad conduct discharge, said Bruce Anderson, deputy public affairs spokesman for the 3rd Corps support command.

Lemoine, who had condemned the invasion of Iraq, was charged for repeatedly refusing to obey orders from commanders between January 10th and February 15th at a base in Darmstadt, south of Frankfurt.

Lemoine, from Moraville, Louisiana, told a recent news conference in Germany sponsored by anti-war groups that even though he volunteered to join the army, he had changed his mind and wanted to leave.

"It was simply a slow realisation that serving in the U.S. military at this day and time contradicts my religion and to continue to do so would make me a hypocrite," he said last week.

Lemoine had also been quoted in German newspapers as saying: "The contract with the US army is a slavery contract."

He also spoke out against US army violence against Iraqis, saying: "Iraqi civilians are often treated worse than animals."

Lemoine joined the army for three years, a term which would have ended on February 13th, but extended his enlistment at some point for a further eight-month period.