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Recommend Court Martial For Roger Priest

The Navy apparently plans to proceed with court martial charges against Roger Priest, the sailor who publishes OM, The Liberation Newsletter.

The charges against Priest all stem from material published in OM. They include “soliciting desertion”, “disrespect to a superior commissioned officer”, and “promoting disloyalty and disaffection among members of the Armed Forces.” If convicted on all charges, he could be sentenced to 35 years in prison.

An Article 32 hearing on the charges against Priest was held in July under Commander Norman Mills, the Investigating Officer. On August 11, the Navy called a number of reporters and informed them that Priest's CO, Cpt. G.L. Tarleton, had recommended proceeding with all the charges against Priest.

Very interesting, said Priest's attorney, David Rein. But what was the recommendation of the Investigating Officer of the Article 32 hearing? That, replied the Navy, is strictly “an internal matter.”

At a news conference August 13, Rein charged that the Navy's refusal to release Commander Mills' report strongly suggested that he had recommended dropping the charges. Rein compared the situation to the case of the Presidio 27, where the Arry went ahead with mutiny trials contrary to the recommendation of the Article 32 hearing.

Prior to the news conference, Rein and several civilian supporters of Priest met with Assistant Secretary of the Navy James Hittle and asked that the charges against Priest be dropped. Rein pointed out that the charges were solely the result of articles written by Priest, and that all such articles were clearly protected by the First Amendment. He noted that similar material was widely available in other publications, and that the opinions Priest expressed were “just a sample of the opinion in the generation which Roger Priest represents.”

Priest himself has said about his case: “Although most military brass take it for granted that they should be able to criticize national policy matters, the idea that enlisted men have the same right is looked upon as radical and dangerous. The Navy, by ‘over-reacting’ in the manner it has, will soon learn -- to its total dismay -- that by suppressing military dissent it has not lessened, but has, in fact, increased the chances of further outbreaks or acts that can only bring discredit on the military and civilian leadership of this country.”

Civilian support for Roger Priest is being coordinated by Serviceman's Link to Peace.

GI Press Service, vol. 1, no. 5


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