FORT CARSON, Colo. (AP) — A court-martial got underway Monday for the first female U.S. Army soldier to flee to Canada to avoid a second tour of duty in the Iraq war.
Army Pfc. Kimberly Rivera is charged with desertion and could face up to five years in prison and a dishonorable discharge if convicted, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported (http://bit.ly/12wpci6 ).
Rivera, 30, was a wheeled-vehicle driver in Fort Carson’s 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and served in Iraq in 2006. She has said that, while there, she became disillusioned with the U.S. mission in Iraq.
During a two-week leave in the U.S. in 2007, Rivera crossed the Canadian border after she was ordered to serve another tour in Iraq. She applied for refugee status but was denied.
Rivera then applied for permanent residency, but Canadian immigration officials rejected that application, too. Authorities also rejected her requests to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
Rivera was first ordered to leave Canada or face deportation in 2009, but she appealed that decision. The mother of four faced another deportation order issued in 2012.
She was arrested at the U.S. border and taken into military custody.
Roughly 19,000 people signed an online petition in Canada protesting Rivera’s deportation order, and rallies were held in a number of Canadian cities calling on the government to let her stay in the country.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the U.S. veterans organization Veterans for Peace also protested the deportation order.
In 2012, the War Resisters Support Campaign, a Canadian activist group, estimated there were about 200 Iraq war resisters in Canada. It said two other Iraq war resisters who were deported, Robin Long and Clifford Cornell, faced lengthy jail sentences upon their return.