Monday, September 22, 2008

Army Deserter Allowed to Remain in Canada

Perhaps not permanently, however, but this worm gets to stay for now.
A high-profile American war dodger won a desperate bid to stay in Canada on Monday as a judge refused to allow Canada to send him back to the United States to face prosecution for desertion.

Jeremy Hinzman's reprieve from scheduled deportation on Tuesday came after Federal Court heard an Immigration official had made serious errors in assessing the hardships the deserter and his family would face if forced back to the U.S.

"Of course, we're elated -- we weren't expecting this much, so it's a nice surprise," Hinzman said moments after the decision was released.

"(But) we're not out of the woods at all. We just have a stay of removal."

Earlier in the day, Hinzman's lawyer Alyssa Manning told Justice Richard Mosley that new evidence suggests outspoken critics of the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq face harsher treatment than other deserters.

For example, she said, deserter Robin Long was sentenced to 15 months in prison last month after prosecutors made mention of a media interview he had given in Canada before he was deported in July.

As one of the first of scores of deserters to seek refuge in Canada rather than fight in Iraq, Hinzman's case has been even more public.

"He is the person associated with objections to the war in Iraq," Manning told the court.

The issue of "differential" treatment for those who have spoken out against the U.S.-led invasion appeared to trouble Mosley.

"I don't know how it is an aggravating feature or element to be introduced in sentencing," the judge said.

Crown lawyer Stephen Gold called it "speculation and surmise" that criticizing the U.S. military in public has led to harsher sentences for deserters.

"It is not really for us to pass judgment on a military code in a foreign country," Gold said.

Hinzman, 29, deserted the 82nd Airborne Division in January 2004 just before he was scheduled to deploy to Iraq. He fled to Toronto with his wife and young son after his application for conscientious-objector status was rejected.

Canada rejected his refugee claim -- a decision two courts upheld -- on the basis he faces prosecution, not persecution, in the U.S.

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