SEATTLE – A Muslim chaplain cleared after being imprisoned for 76 days in an espionage probe submitted a letter of resignation to the Army on Monday, saying officials never apologized to him or allowed him to retrieve his belongings from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“In 2003, I was unfairly accused of grave offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and unjustifiably placed in solitary confinement for 76 days,” Capt. James J. Yee wrote. “Those unfounded allegations – which were leaked to the media – irreparably injured my personal and professional reputation and destroyed my prospects for a career in the United States Army.”
Yee, stationed at Fort Lewis near Tacoma, asked to be discharged on Jan. 7, 2005. The Army must approve his resignation, but Yee’s lawyer, Eugene R. Fidell, said he did not believe Yee’s wishes would be opposed.
Fort Lewis spokesman Lt. Col. Bill Costello confirmed that Yee’s superiors had received the letter, but said he did not know when Yee might get an answer.
“It’ll go through the chain of command, and they’ll either approve it or disapprove it,” Costello said.
Yee, 35, ministered to prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, where the military is holding suspected Islamic terrorists.
The chaplain was arrested at Guantanamo Bay last September, carrying what authorities said were classified documents.
The military initially linked him to a possible espionage ring. He was eventually charged with mishandling classified material, failing to obey an order, making a false official statement, adultery and conduct unbecoming an officer.
In March, Army officials dismissed all criminal charges against him, but they found him guilty of the noncriminal Army charges of adultery and downloading pornography. The reprimand he received was thrown out by an Army general a month later.
“I have waited for months for an apology for the treatment to which I have been subjected, but none has been forthcoming,” Yee wrote. “I have been unable even to obtain my personal effects from Guantanamo Bay, despite repeated requests. In the circumstances, I have no alternative but to tender my resignation.”
Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts have called for the Pentagon to investigate the handling of Yee’s case, saying it called into question the fairness of military justice. Human rights advocates across the country decried the case, saying Yee was targeted because of his religion.
Once he leaves the Army, Yee plans to continue working on a master’s degree in international relations and perhaps pursue a doctorate, as well, Fidell said.
“The whole thing is extremely sad and discouraging,” Fidell said. “The Army has taken a perfectly good officer and turned him into a pariah, and has harmed him in ways that are probably irreparable.”