Thursday, March 23, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Pentagon Wants to Court Martial|U.S. Civilian Mechanic in Iraq

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Secretary of Defense is unconstitutionally imprisoning a mechanic at an Air Force base in Iraq, pending a "court martial," though the man is a civilian, Justin Price, of Las Vegas, says in a habeas complaint in Federal Court. If the Pentagon court martials him, in defiance of Supreme Court rulings, he will be "the first civilian U.S. citizen to be tried by court martial in at least 38 years," claim his attorneys, with Steptoe & Johnson.

"The asserted basis for the military's actions is an ill-considered 2006 amendment to the Uniform Code of Military Justice ('UCMJ'), enacted without hearings or committee consideration, that purports to subject certain civilians to trial by court martial during 'contingency operations,'" the complaint states. "But this stature cannot overcome the long line of Supreme Court precedent limiting court-martial jurisdiction to accuseds who, unlike Mr. Price, are actually part of the active armed forces."

Price, 24, is imprisoned at "Ali Base" in Iraq. He is, or was, an aircraft mechanic for unmanned Predator drones. He worked 12 hour shifts for 63 days straight, without a day off, and was supposed to come home on Jan. 17, according to the complaint.

Apparently, he was imprisoned after "a small fire" began under one of the drones on which he was working, on Nov. 17, 2008.

Price's lead attorney at Steptoe & Johnson is John O'Connor.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.