Medic jailed for Iraq duty refusal

Thursday, April 13, 2006 Posted: 1253 GMT (2053 HKT)
Malcolm Kendall-Smith refused to go to Iraq in 2005.

LONDON, England (AP) -- A military court found a British air force doctor guilty Thursday of disobeying orders after he challenged the legality of the war in Iraq, and he was sentenced to eight months in prison and dismissed from the service.

Flight Lt. Malcolm Kendall-Smith, who said U.S. actions in Iraq were on par with those of Nazi Germany, was convicted by a panel of Royal Air Force officers after a three-day court-martial.

Kendall-Smith, 37, had served twice in southern Iraq with British forces, but refused to return a third time in June because he said he was not prepared to take part in an "act of aggression."

He had pleaded innocent to five charges of failing to comply with a lawful order after refusing to deploy to the southern city of Basra last year.

Kendall-Smith's lawyer, Philip Sapsford, had argued that since Iraq had not attacked Britain or one of its allies, there was no lawful reason to invade. The officer was entitled to disobey the "unlawful" orders, the attorney said.

Prosecutors argued that the charges pertained to 2005 -- long after the invasion.

Prosecutor David Perry told the court that since May 2003, coalition forces in Iraq were operating under the authority of a U.N. Security Council mandate and at the invitation of Iraq's provisional government.

In a preliminary ruling, Judge Advocate John Bayliss said British forces had justification to operate in Iraq under U.N. resolutions at the time the charges were filed in June and July 2005.

Kendall-Smith, a dual British-New Zealand citizen, could have received a maximum of two years in detention.

He told the court he did not want to be complicit with an action contrary to international law.

"I have evidence that the Americans were on a par with Nazi Germany with its actions in the Persian Gulf," he said.

Kendall-Smith, who studied philosophy in New Zealand, refused to take part in training prior to the deployment because he believed these were "preparatory acts which were equally criminal as the act itself."

The Pentagon says more than 5,500 servicemen have deserted since the war started in Iraq. It is unclear how many have challenged the legality of the war.

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