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TORONTO (Reuters) - A U.S. soldier who fought in Iraq before deserting and coming to Canada now faces deportation next month, but says he shouldn't be returned to the United States to face "unjust punishment."
Corey Glass, 25, learned on Wednesday that his application to remain in Canada has been rejected and he now must willingly return to the United States by June 12 or be deported.
"I don't think it is fair that I should be returned to the United States to face unjust punishment for doing what I felt morally obligated to do," Glass told reporters on Wednesday.
If he is returned to the United States, Glass, of Fairmount, Indiana, could face jail time. He joined the National Guard in 2002.
"When I joined the National Guard, they told me the only way I would be in combat is if there were troops occupying the United States," he said.
But in 2005, he was deployed to a U.S. base in Iraq, where he worked in military intelligence.
"Through this job I had access to lots of information about what was happening on the ground in Iraq," he said. "Through what I saw, I realized innocent people were being killed unjustly."
He said he tried to quit the military, but his commander told him he was simply suffering from stress and needed downtime, he said.
He went home on leave and said he was not coming back.
"I was told desertion is punishable by death," he said.
After searching the Internet, he found out about U.S. deserters in Canada. He came to Toronto in 2006 and has lived in the city since.
His case is also important to the estimated several hundred other Iraq war deserters currently living in Canada, said Lee Zaslofsky, co-ordinator of the War Resisters Support Campaign.
"I'm disappointed in the government of Canada, which seems to be doing the dirty work of the American government in rounding up people that don't want to fight in George Bush's Iraq war," said Zaslofsky, who is himself a Vietnam War resister.
He called on Canadians to contact Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as well as Liberal opposition leader Stephane Dion and speak in support of Glass and others like him.
A spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada said she cannot discuss individual cases because of privacy rules.
Reporting by Wojtek Dabrowski; editing by Rob Wilson