Marine claims he is being persecuted
NEW ORLEANS - A Marine reservist facing a court-martial says that he is being unfairly prosecuted for criticizing the military at antiwar rallies and for publicizing his application for conscientious objector status.
The Marine Corps says that Lance Cpl. Stephen Funk faces charges because he was AWOL - absent without leave - while his support unit was being mobilized for the war in Iraq.
A pretrial hearing is scheduled today, and Funk's attorney, Stephen Collier, intends to ask the judge to dismiss the charge of "shirking important duty" on the ground that Funk was selectively targeted.
"People go AWOL all the time and they don't get court-martialed," said Collier, a San Francisco lawyer who has handled military clients since the first Persian Gulf War. "He's a conscientious objector who went public with his beliefs, and that's something that should be respected, not retaliated against."
A prosecutor is expected to ask the judge to disallow any evidence of Funk's being a conscientious objector. "We don't care why he didn't show up," said Capt. Jeff Poole, a Marine spokesman. "We just needed him to show up."
Last winter, when the war with Iraq was imminent, Funk, 21, told his commander that he would consult a lawyer about his options for leaving the service. He was absent when his battalion, from San Jose, Calif., was sent to Camp Pendleton, near San Diego. "Funk was the only one who didn't show up when his unit was being mobilized for the war, and he's the only one being prosecuted,"Poole said.
refusing to kill