(CN) – A federal appeals court in New York vacated the removal order of an immigration judge who wrongfully determined that a former Russian soldier helped persecute an Armenian family.
While serving in a Russian military academy, Igor Krasnoperov was instructed by his commanding officer to enter an Armenian family’s home and put two adolescent girls in a military car. According to court documents, the girls “shrank back against the wall” when Krasnoperov reached his hand out for the girls. The officer then told Krasnoperov to hit the girls. When he refused, he was told to hand over his weapon.
The other soldiers allegedly started raping the girls. Krasnoperov said he refused orders to join in, so his fellow soldiers handcuffed and beat him. The Russian military academy ultimately expelled Krasnoperov.
The 2nd Circuit overturned immigration Judge Theresa Holmes-Simmons’ judgment that Krasnoperov “clearly … is a persecutor” because, in part, she never credited his claim that he refused to participate in the rapes. The appeals court said the basis of the judge’s adverse credibility finding “is very unclear.”
The court questioned Holmes-Simmons’ conclusion that Krasnoperov’s inaction allowed the rapes to occur. Krasnoperov claimed to have been in the car when the abuse began, and was beaten and handcuffed when he refused to take part. “Thus, it is hard to see how he could have acted to prevent the rapes,” Judge Pooler wrote.
Krasnoperov, a Jew, and his wife, Eiguenia Balachova, a Baptist, also said they were victims of religious persecution in Russia. Krasnoperov claimed that anti-Semites beat him on two occasions, even fracturing his leg. Balachova said she was arrested for distributing religious material.
The appellate court revived Krasnoperov’s persecution claim, adding that Holmes-Simmons may have “prevented him from offering a full explanation” by interrupting him during testimony.