Family moved to Canada after private refused to fight in 'dehumanising' Iraq war

US army private Jeremy Hinzman fought in Afghanistan and considers himself a patriot. But when his unit was ordered to Iraq, he refused to go and embarked on a radical journey that could make legal history.

Private first class Hinzman left the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, taking his wife and son to Canada. Officially, he is awol (absent without leave), and, instead of fighting insurgents, he is battling the US military in the Canadian courts.

This month Pte Hinzman, 25, filed legal papers to become the first US soldier objecting to the Iraq war to be granted refugee status in Canada. His case is expected to be a test of new Canadian immigration laws and the country's traditional role of accepting refugees from the US military.

An estimated 250 Americans every year seek refugee status in Canada, the vast majority making mental health claims, according to Jeffrey House, a Toronto criminal defence lawyer who represents Pte Hinzman.

"This is the first time a soldier from the Iraq war is seeking protection. He does not want to fight in Iraq and he will do any lawful thing to stay in Canada."

If he returns to the US, Pte Hinzman could be prosecuted as a deserter, according to Sergeant Pam Smith, a spokes woman for the 82nd Airborne. "We don't have time to go and track down people who go awol," she told the Associated Press. "We're fighting a war.",3604,1152865,00.html

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