November 20, 2009 / 8:49 PM / in 8 years

Lesbian U.S. deserter to get new Canada hearing

OTTAWA (Reuters) - A Canadian court ordered a new refugee hearing on Friday for a U.S. Army deserter who claimed she would face persecution because of her homosexuality if returned to the United States.

The Federal Court of Canada threw out a February decision that had denied a refugee claim by Bethany Lanae Smith, and directed refugee authorities to grant her a new hearing that takes proper account of her sexual orientation.

Smith, now 21, testified that while at Fort Campbell in Kentucky she had received handwritten notes on her dormitory door threatening her with beatings or death. A few months later, in September 2007, she deserted the army and filed a refugee claim in Canada.

She had also claimed conscientious objector status, and the Federal Court ruled that the Immigration and Refugee Board had relied too heavily on an earlier decision that rejected refugee status for another deserter who based his claim on conscientious objection.

Reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Rob Wilson

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