March 16, 2007

The Public Forum . . . El Foro Publico

The Trial of Agustin Aguayo

Eyewitness account by Fernando Suarez del Solar

The fifth of March. 9 a.m. The US military base in Würzburg, Germany. We enter the building where a trial will be held—the court martial of conscientious objector Agustin Aguayo. His family is nervous, his daughters still do not fully understand what may happen to their father, his wife Helga displays a fearlessness that masks what she really feels.

At 9:28 a.m., the military judge enters the courtroom where Agustin is seated with his lawyers. A few civilians and military personnel are there as well as representatives of Amnesty International and I.

The bailiff reads the charges and the prosecutor asks that the accused be found guilty of desertion, AWOL, disobeying orders and abandoning his unit. He asks for the maximum sentence of seven years.

The defense presents its case by claiming that the defendant is innocent, guilty only of AWOL and refusing to deploy to Iraq.

Witnesses are called for both sides. There is a recess for lunch at 12:30. The family is nervous and afraid of the unknown. The General Consul of Mexico appears and states that his government is present to lend support to a fellow citizen.

The trial is called back into session and the judge finds the accused guilty on all counts. At this moment, Helga begins to sob softly, the daughters cry without understanding what has happened, Agustin’s mother weeps, and I shed a tear out of anger and impotence before such an injustice. But the real surprise has not yet taken place.

At 5:55 p.m., the judge asks Agustin to stand to hear the sentence. There is tension and fear in the faces of friends and family because the prosecutor has asked for the full seven year sentence and we know the minimum sentence is two years. The judge declares that the penalty will be eight months, and that given the time he has already spent in prison Agustin has to serve only 49 more days. He will be demoted to the rank of E-1 with a lower salary and discharged.

The dark skies parted for the family! Only 49 more days and Agustin would be able to embrace his family as a free man!

The expressions of the prosecutors showed frustration, anger, even hate. The expressions of friends and family showed joy because this signified one more defeat for the Bush administration.

As I approached Agustin to hug him, he said “Thank you Fernando for being here. Your presence gave me courage. I knew that having you here would help me to face adversity, you brought me luck, and imagine—only three months and I will be with you, discussing the lies that led to this war.”

I couldn’t avoid crying and neither could he. We embraced, and I thought “Why could my son not be here to witness this victory? I would gladly exchange my life for that of my son. I would rather see him in prison for refusing to go to war than have to visit his grave.” I left the courtroom, lit a cigarette, and began to weep—Agustin free; Jesus gone forever.

-Fernando Suarez del Solar

Founder & Director Guerrero Azteca Peace Project

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