Mar 6, 2007 â WUERZBURG, Germany (Reuters) - A U.S. Army medic on trial for refusing to return to Iraq with his unit pleaded guilty on Tuesday to going absent without leave and missing his deployment but denied charges of full desertion. Mexican-born combat medic Agustin Aguayo, 35, faces up to seven years in prison, a dishonorable discharge and loss of pay for leaving his base in Schweinfurt, Germany, in September 2006, and failing to deploy with his unit. His case comes at a time of waning support for the Iraq war in the United States and follows the high-profile trial in February of First Lieutenant Ehren Watada â the first known court-martial of a U.S. Army officer for publicly refusing to serve in Iraq. Watada's court-martial ended in a mistrial. "I missed the movement," Aguayo said at his court-martial in the Bavarian city of Wuerzburg. "Yes, I deliberately stayed away from the battalion area." He faces two and a half years in prison for going absent without leave and for being missing in movement but that could rise to seven years if he is found guilty of desertion. Aguayo, who has fought for three years to be recognized as a conscientious objector, served one term as a medic in Iraq in 2004, during which he said he refused to load his gun while on guard duty. He failed to show up when his unit redeployed to Iraq last year and then fled his base, going missing for several weeks before turning himself over in California. Aguayo's attorney said his attempts to be recognized as an objector could make a difference in the sentencing although he could not use that as a defense in the trial. "We are not dealing with a person who just says 'I do not like the Iraq war so I won't go'," his civilian attorney David Court told Reuters. "We are dealing with someone who is saying 'I won't go to Iraq. I won't go to Afghanistan. I won't go to Somalia. I won't go to Bosnia. I don't believe in war'." A deserter is defined by the U.S. Department of Defense as a member of the armed forces who is absent from their unit or post without authorization, quits their unit to avoid duty or enlists improperly in another service. It can also apply to people who are absent without leave for 30 straight days or more. The Department of Defense recorded a total of 4,494 deserters in 2005, according to official data. In addition to Aguayo and Watada, there have been several similar cases, including that of British Air Force doctor Malcolm Kendall-Smith, who was sentenced to eight months in jail last April for refusing to go to Iraq. Amnesty International said it had sent a delegate to observe the court martial proceedings to assess whether Aguayo would be a prisoner of conscience if convicted and imprisoned.