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Joshua Key, seen here as part of his U.S. military unit before he deserted, is seeking refugee status so he can remain in Canada. ((CBC file))

Calling his actions as a soldier in Iraq "morally wrong," an American war deserter who fled to Canada appeared again before a federal Immigration and Refugee Board to press his case for remaining in Canada.

Joshua Key, who has settled in Saskatchewan, told the hearing Wednesday in Toronto that the U.S. military operation in Iraq is immoral.

"To me, it was morally wrong what I was doing to Iraqi civilians," Key told the board member hearing his case. "It very much plays on me, it still plays on me."

Last July, the refugee board was ordered to take another look at Key's case after initially denying him asylum. The Federal Court found the board made mistakes in turning down Key's claim.

Key and his family fled to Canada in 2005 while he was on leave after serving in Iraq for eight months as a combat engineer.

Civilians humiliated

Key told the hearing he participated in over 200 raids on civilians. Soldiers forced men outside their homes, cuffing them, hooding them and sometimes forcing them to undress, he said.

When asked what the goal of such missions was, Key said he was told it was to "dehumanize" the native population.

Key said he believes he wouldn't be treated fairly if he were deported to the U.S. and were required to face military charges of desertion, facing up to five years in prison.

The immigration board member who heard Key's case reserved his decision.

After the hearing, Key seemed relieved.

"I believe in what I did. I don't believe I did anything wrong. I believe sending me back to the United States and punishing me, that's wrong," he said.

Key said he wants to start a new life with his fiancee and new baby in Saskatchewan. He has been in the province for about three years.