U.S. war resister and ex-B.C. resident Cliff Cornell sentenced to one year in prison

An Iraq war resister who lived in B.C. from January 2005 to February 2009 has been sentenced to one year in a military prison.

Cliff Cornell was handed his prison term and a bad conduct discharge on Tuesday (April 28) at a court-martial hearing at Fort Stewart, Georgia.

According to a War Resisters Support Campaign media release, Cornell was given an unusually-harsh punishment for U.S. military desertion because he spoke out against the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq while living in Canada.

James Branum, Cornell’s lawyer, is quoted in the release: “Cliff is being punished for what he believes, for his comments to the press. Because he spoke out against the Iraq War, Cliff’s sentence is harsher than the punishment given to 94% of deserters who are not penalized but administratively discharged.”

During Cornell’s trial, prosecutors claimed that American troops in Iraq saw Cornell on television speaking out against the war. According to the release, these lawyers argued that troop moral was undermined by Cornell’s actions.

On August 23, Robin Long, a war resister who lived in Nelson from 2005 to July 2008, was dishonourably discharged and sentenced to 15 months in a military prison. Long had been deported from Canada on July 15 after Federal Court Justice Anne Mactavish ruled that he wouldn’t face “irreparable harm” if he was sent back to the United States.

On March 30, 2009, Parliament reaffirmed a June 3, 2008, motion recommending that the Conservative government immediately implement a program to allow conscientious objectors and their families to remain in Canada. The motion also said that war resisters and their families should be allowed to apply for permanent residence status and that the government should cease all removal or deportation actions that may have already commenced.

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