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Wednesday, June 23, 2004 - Page updated at 04:49 P.M.

Soldier accused of trying to help terrorists faces court-martial

By Melanthia Mitchell
The Associated Press

Spc. Ryan G. Anderson
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SEATTLE - A U.S. soldier accused of trying to help al-Qaida has been ordered to stand trial at a military court-martial, but will not face the death penalty, Army officials said today.

Lt. Gen. Edward Soriano, commander at Fort Lewis south of Seattle, ordered the military trial for Spc. Ryan G. Anderson on June 9, but the order was not made public until today.

An arraignment is scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday and is expected to last less than half an hour, Fort Lewis spokesman Joe Hitt said.

Anderson, who is 26 and married, was arrested in February and charged with five counts of trying to provide the terrorist network with information about U.S. troop strength and tactics as well as methods for killing American soldiers. He could face life in prison if convicted.

Soriano referred all charges against Anderson to a general court-martial. The charges can carry the death penalty; Hitt said Soriano would not be offering any public explanation for why he declined to pursue it.

Anderson is a Muslim convert and Fort Lewis-based National Guardsman with the 81st Armor Brigade, which is now in Iraq.

Raised Lutheran, Anderson grew up in Everett, where classmates at Cascade High School described him as a paramilitary enthusiast who was passionate about guns. He began studying Islam while attending Washington State University.

Anderson was first recommended for a court-martial at an Article 32 hearing in May.

During the proceeding, prosecutors presented a secretly recorded video of him meeting with two undercover military officials posing as members of al-Qaida.

In the video, Anderson offers information about weaknesses in the M1A1 Abrams, the military's primary battle tank.

Anderson remains jailed at the Regional Corrections Facility at Fort Lewis. Courts-martial are typically held at the base where charges originated.

Anderson's attorney, Maj. Joseph Morse, and prosecutor Maj. Chris Jenks, have declined comment on the case, Hitt said today.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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