US Army deserter readies for legal battle, faces tough odds

US soldier Andre Shepherd is seeking political asylum in Germany after deserting an American military base. If extradited to his home country, he could face life in prison or even the death penalty.

­“For me, the personal favorite were the roller coasters,” Shepherd reminisces about his life in the US. “I can’t find any place in Germany that comes even close to that!”

Four years ago Shepherd deserted the US Army, cutting off the way to his native Cleveland forever.

His mother cried with pride when he volunteered for the army in 2004, but after a six-month tour of duty in Iraq, Andre walked off a US base in Germany and never returned.

"Anything that anyone can possibly imagine in terms of war crimes committed in world history, the American forces have done this and are continuing to do this on a daily basis,” Shepherd says. “The soldiers were being attacked, but they didn’t know from where, so they just shot randomly in different directions."

After hiding out for more than a year, Andre Shepherd surfaced. He married a German, secured the support of a number of human rights organizations and is now officially seeking asylum.

Tucked away on the border of Germany and Austria, Lake Chimsee has long been popular with holiday makers. But now this idyllic spot may also go down in history as the home of the first US Iraq war veteran granted political asylum.

However, to become the first is not going to be easy. Germany is one of the main staging grounds for the US military in Europe, with around 60,000 American troops stationed there. Each year some of those soldiers go AWOL and get picked up by the police.

"The pressure is very high on Germany, and Andre often said in his speeches he was sorry for putting so much pressure on the German government," says Shepherd’s wife, Jacqueline Edith. “He really loves this country so much.”

Andre will argue in court that the war in Iraq was a complete fraud, but lawyers say he has little chance of winning this legal war with the US.

It’s particularly more difficult if it’s a war such as the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, where it was not a popular war,” says Douglas McNabb, an international extradition lawyer. “And if we started having droves of soldiers deciding on their own that they were no longer going to be a member of the US military apparatus, we’d have a problem. And so there are very harsh penalties, up to life, and including the possibility of death.”

The mainstream media in the so-called coalition countries is not in a hurry to give Andre a say either.

The major corporations, like the BBC, CNN, what happened is that if I say anything controversial that goes against the government line it would be completely censored,” Shepherd says.

Shepherd admits that he may be on a slippery slope, but he also says that he is ready for the battle of his life, maintaining that there was no justification for the war in Iraq.