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US deserter appeals deportation

Published: 4:18PM Friday August 15, 2008 Source: Reuters

An American who deserted the US Army to protest the Iraq War and who has has been ordered deported back home will file a new appeal in Canada's Federal Court, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Jeremy Hinzman is the first US deserter in recent years to apply for refugee status in Canada. Immigration authorities determined that he did not face persecution or hardship if he were returned to the United States and told him on Wednesday he had until September 23 to leave the country.

"It's our government acting as an enforcement agent for the Pentagon," said Lee Zaslofsky of the War Resisters Support Campaign, himself a Vietnam War-era deserter from the US Army who has since become a Canadian.

Hinzman's lawyer, Alyssa Manning, said the decision on whether he faced hardship did not take into account the effect on his family if he ended up in prison, and she will be appealing the case.

In November, the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear an appeal by Hinzman of determinations, backed in two subsequent court rulings, that he was not a refugee in need of protection.

Hinzman deserted in 2004, when he received orders to go to Iraq. In the United States, he faces a possible court martial and up to five years in prison. Another US deserter, Robin Long, was deported in July and is in jail in Colorado.

During the Vietnam War, Canada was a haven for tens of thousands of US draft dodgers and deserters and has attracted an estimated 175 to 200 Americans who are resisting the Iraq conflict.

One distinction that has been drawn in the debates over the issue is that Hinzman and the others who came to Canada in the last few years were volunteers rather than conscripts, as was the case during the Vietnam War.

The House of Commons, dominated by opposition parties, passed a nonbinding motion in June urging the minority Conservative government to let conscientious objectors stay in Canada.