Europe

US Marine faces dismissal for criticising President Obama

Sgt Gary Stein
Image caption Sgt Stein claims he has a constitutional right to express his views

A US Marine is facing dismissal from the military for criticising President Obama on his Facebook page.

Sergeant Gary Stein imposed Mr Obama's face on mocked-up film posters, including one for the movie "Jackass".

Prosecutors say Sgt Stein repeatedly ignored warnings from superior officers, and that the postings are in breach of military regulations.

He argues that he has a constitutional right to freedom of speech.

A disciplinary board recommended that he be demoted, and given an "other-than-honourable" discharge.

A senior officer must now decide whether to accept that recommendation.

The board heard that Sgt Stein had said he would not follow orders from the president if it involved violating the rights of US citizens.

Sgt Stein says his opinions are his own and that he put a disclaimer on his Facebook page making that clear.

The US military has a long-standing policy of restricting the free speech of service members, including criticism of the president, who is commander-in-chief of America's armed forces.

Sgt Stein's supporters - who include two congressmen, and the American Civil Liberties Union - argue that the defence department's regulations are vague, and that commanders do not understand them.

Sergeant Stein has been in the Marine Corps for nine years, and is due to finish his service in four months.