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Friday, March 25, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Canada denies asylum to Army deserter

The Washington Post

TORONTO — Canada's Refugee Hearing board yesterday rejected a bid for asylum by a U.S. Army deserter who refused to go to war in Iraq, raising legal roadblocks to the growing trickle of American servicemen fleeing to Canada.

The board ruled that Jeremy Hinzman, 26, could not argue that he would be unfairly persecuted in the United States for refusing to serve in what he said was an illegal war.

Hinzman, a parachute-trained specialist raised in Rapid City, S.D., served in Afghanistan but fled from Fort Bragg, N.C., and entered Canada in January 2004 after his unit, the 82nd Airborne Division, was given orders to deploy to Iraq.

"Our hands were tied by not being able to argue the legality of the war," Hinzman told several dozen demonstrators, including two other American deserters, who gathered outside the U.S. consulate after the decision. His attorney, Jeffry House, said nine other servicemen had started the asylum-application process in Canada, and he estimated "about 100" were in hiding in the country.

House, fled the Vietnam war in 1970, and Hinzman was supported by other former Vietnam resisters who stayed in Canada.

Army Pfc. Joshua Key, 26, who served as a combat engineer in Fallujah and Ramadi, where violent opposition has been particularly fierce, fled to Canada with his wife and four young children two weeks ago.

He told reporters he refused to return to Iraq because of "the atrocities that were happening to the innocent people of Iraq."

Hinzman, whose case is the first to be decided by the refugee board, tried to raise similar arguments, but the board refused to hear his claims.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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