Private First Class Kimberly Rivera -- a conscientious objector and pregnant mother of four -- has just been sentenced to military prison for refusing to serve in the Iraq War. Rivera was on a two-week leave in December 2006 when she decided she would not return to Iraq for a second tour of duty. She and her family fled to Canada in February 2007, living there until their deportation back to the United States last year.
On Monday, a military court sentenced her to 10 months behind bars. Her fifth child is due in December. Democracy Now! speaks to Mario Rivera, Kimberly's husband and now the primary caretaker of their four young children.
Responding to the sentencing, Mario broke into tears, saying, "I think it was severely harsh, and I personally feel that the judge already made up his mind before the trial had even started. It's just too much. The kids need her."
Democracy Now! also speaks with James Branum, a lawyer who represents Kimberly and dozens of other conscientious objectors.
"The judge doesn't really give the rationale for why he made the decision he did. We do know there have been some resistance cases that have received greater sentences," Branum says. "As long as 24 months has been given. But many other resisters receive little jail time or no jail time. And people that desert, generally, over 90 percent do no jail time at all. And so, we feel that Kim was singled out."
Branum adds: "Another thing, the prosecutor at trial said that he asked the judge to give a harsh sentence to send a message to the war resisters in Canada. And we feel that was--the Canadian government, in deporting Kim, said she would not face any serious punishment because of her political and conscientious objection to war. And in reality, that's exactly what happened. That was the prosecution's argument, that because she spoke out against the war, she therefore should be punished."
While in Iraq, Kimberly has said she realized she couldn't morally continue with her duty and sought advice from the military chaplain. Branum explains: "The chaplain was very, very resolute that Kim--that she needed to stay there, she needed to fulfill her mission, instead of giving her the spiritual counsel she needed at that moment. Instead, this chaplain told her basically, 'Suck it up. Continue on.' And that was--that was not the advice she needed at that moment. She needed to know her rights. She needed to know AR 600-43 gives her the right to seek status as a conscientious objector. She didn't know that."
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