CHICAGO (CN) - A Palestinian man who says Hamas burned down his West Bank Internet cafe and thinks he is a spy may be entitled to U.S. asylum, the 7th Circuit ruled.
Shadi Jaradat opened an Internet cafe in 2004. Jaradat's business, Western style of dress, and frequent trips to Israel soon attracted the attention of local authorities.
"In the eyes of the fundamentalist organization Hamas, which exerted local control, the mingling of the sexes at Jaradat's café defied Shari'a law," according to the 7th Circuit's summary of Jaradat's testimony.
Six months after the cafe's opening, Hamas agents wearing black masks tied Jaradat up, beat him, and burned his building down. Jaradat says the men accused him of spying for Israel and recruiting young girls to be spies.
Jaradat fled to Jerusalem, where he obtained a student visa to come to the United States. He never enrolled at any school and overstayed his visa, prompting immigration officials to initiate removal proceedings.
Jaradat sought asylum as well as relief under the United Nations Convention Against Torture. At his hearing, he argued that Palestine would persecute him as a pro-Western Israeli spy if returned.
But an immigration judge found that Jaradat's testimony was not credible, noting that he did not mention persecution when seeking his visa at the U.S. consulate in Israel. The judge also determined that Jaradat could not prove that he had been persecuted for any political affiliation because did not participate in political activities.
The board of immigration appeals affirmed, concluding that Jaradat's lack of political activity doomed the asylum claim even though it assumed the testimony was credible.
A three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit reversed Thursday, noting that "accusations of spying for another country can establish persecution on account of an imputed political opinion."
Assuming Jaradat's testimony is credible, he is entitled to asylum, the panel found.
"The board's opinion appears to assume, mistakenly, that Jaradat had to engage in traditional political activity to be eligible for asylum based on political opinion," the unsigned opinion states. "But as long as Hamas genuinely believed - rightly or wrongly - that he supported Israel ... Jaradat can establish persecution based on imputed political opinion."
The appeals court remanded the case for further proceedings. Jaradat could still be denied asylum if the Board of Immigration appeals finds him not to be credible.
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