(By Julian Borger, originally published in The Guardian, January 5 2006)
In a possible message to would-be deserters in Iraq, the US marines have charged a pensioner for not going to war in Vietnam 40 years ago.
Former marine private Jerry Texiero was found selling boats and classic cars in Florida under a false name. He was identified as a result of a fraud conviction in 1998, which he said was the result of wrongdoing by a former partner.
Seven years later marine investigators from an "AWOL apprehension unit" compared his fingerprints with their records of deserters. He was first arrested by Florida police in August and handed over to the military on December 21.
Mr Texiero, 65, is being held in Camp Lejeune, a marine base in North Carolina. No date has been set for preliminary hear ings. If he is convicted of desertion in a court martial, he could serve three years in a military jail. His lawyers were due to discuss the case with him yesterday.
Tod Ensign, the legal director of Citizen Soldier, an advocacy group representing conscientious objectors, wrote to Camp Lejeune's commanding officer, Brigadier General Robert Dickerson, asking: "Why are scarce marine resources being squandered on the prosecution of a senior citizen whose only 'crime' is refusing to fight a war that today is universally discredited?
"Or is the corps warning marines in Iraq that they will pursue deserters to the grave? They have the burden of proof that he was not lawfully serving his time at the duty station. We're not going to concede it."
Mr Ensign also called for Mr Texiero to be released from military custody while he fights the charges.