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Last Updated: Friday, 25 March, 2005, 04:28 GMT
US deserter denied Canada asylum
Jeremy Hinzman (Photograph: Mark Laking)
Hinzman's case has support in Canada (Photo: Mark Laking)
A former US soldier who quit the army in protest against the Iraq war has been denied refugee status in Canada.

Jeremy Hinzman, 26, was the first to receive an answer from a number of US deserters seeking Canadian residency.

Mr Hinzman, who served in Afghanistan in a non-combat role, left the 82nd Airborne Regiment when he was deployed to Iraq.

Correspondents say the decision may affect eight other ex-servicemen, but improve Canadian-US relations.

In its judgement Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board said Mr Hinzman had not convinced its members that he would face persecution if he were sent back to the US.

Board member Brian Goodman wrote in the judgement: "The treatment does not amount to a violation of a fundamental human right, and the harm is not serious."

The ruling did not come as a surprise, the BBC's Lee Carter in Toronto says.

While Canada opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq, officials are aware that accusing Washington of persecuting its own citizens would cause an international diplomatic incident, our correspondent says.

Jail threat

Mr Hinzman's lawyer said he planned to appeal, and that they remained confident of success.

Given that I enlisted for a noble country, doing noble things, I thought, if called upon I would do it. After being trained, I realised I could not
Jeremy Hinzman

"He is disappointed. We don't believe that people should be imprisoned if what they're asked to do is illegal," Jeffry House told Canadian TV.

Mr House also settled in Canada after dodging the US military draft during the Vietnam War.

If Mr Hinzman's appeal is not successful, his final option would be a direct plea to Canada's immigration minister for leave to remain on compassionate grounds.

He faces court martial proceedings and could be sentenced to up to five years in prison if he fails and is returned to the US.

Mr Hinzman fled his unit in January 2004, shortly before the 82nd Airborne was due in Iraq.

He had served three years in the army, but had asked to be classified as a conscientious objector ahead of deployment to Afghanistan in 2002.

Mr Hinzman now lives with his wife and young son in Toronto, where his case has been championed by Quakers and anti-war activist groups.


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