A court in Germany has turned down an asylum request from U.S. Army Spc. Andre Shepherd, who abandoned his base in 2007, saying he didn’t want to commit war crimes.
The Munich court ruled Thursday that Shepherd, the first U.S. soldier to request asylum in Germany, hadn’t done a good enough job attempting to leave the military through legitimate means, The Associated Press reports.
Shepherd deserted from the Katterbach Kaserne base in 2007, which is located in southern Germany. He didn’t want to deploy to Iraq, as in 2004 he participated in the second battle of Fallujah. At that fight, 1,500 Iraqis were killed, an incident Shepherd cited when he applied for asylum.
When he left, he was taken in by punk rockers who helped hide him. Numerous other organizations dedicated to peace have backed his efforts.
Pro Asyl, a human rights organization, decried the court’s ruling.
“I’ve never seen such a one-sided game play out in the German courts,” Pro Asyl spokesman Bernd Mesovic said, according to Deutsche Welle.
German authorities initially requested his bid for asylum in 2011, which is why he took the case to court in the first place.
And now, Josef Ruber, the judge in charge of the case, has stated Shepherd couldn’t provide convincing evidence to support the claim he would be forced to commit war crimes in Iraq. Ruber said it wasn’t the court’s responsibility to rule on whether the U.S. violated international law when it invaded Iraq.
Still, the court’s ruling doesn’t mean the case is over. Shepherd’s lawyer reportedly intends to appeal the decision.
In the meantime, Shepherd can remain in Germany because his wife is German.
If the entire appeal process is unsuccessful, however, it’s possible that Shepherd could wind up in a U.S. jail.
On the other hand, a ruling in Shepherd’s favor would cause a certain amount of consternation between Berlin and Washington, as it could set a precedent for other U.S. soldiers to make similar claims in the future.
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