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Vietnam War deserter in US military prison after border arrest

[JURIST] A US Vietnam-era deserter is being held at a military prison in California after being arrested late last week while crossing the border from Canada. Allen Abney, 56, deserted the US Marine Corps and fled to Canada in 1968 at the age of 18. He was arrested Thursday after a routine computer check conducted upon his arrival at an Idaho border station showed an outstanding military warrant; he was later transferred to a brig at the Marine base at Camp Pendleton [official website] California. Abney's family says that he has visited the US may times without incident, and speculated that the US government is using Abney as an example [CTV report] for members of the US military currently considering desertion to avoid serving in Iraq [JURIST report]. It's estimated that up to 200 former US military personnel are in Canada avoiding Iraq war service; some 20 have applied for refugee status [JURIST report]. According to the Marine Corps, improved computer listings have improved their ability to locate deserters.

Charges against Abney could range from a one-year jail sentence for desertion to a five-year sentence for desertion to avoid combat, or the case could simply be discharged without a court-martial. His family said Monday that its attempts to contact Abney have been unsuccessful so far, and he remains unaware that his brother passed away Saturday following a long illness. The Los Angeles Times has more.

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