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Friday, July 12, 2024 | Back issues
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Judge halts deportation of Iraqi refugee amid specter of torture

Omar Ameen denies ever having been involved in terrorist activities or the 2014 murder of an Iraqi police officer.

(CN) — An Iraqi refugee cannot be sent back to Iraq due to the likelihood he would be tortured there, a judge ruled Monday morning. 

An immigration judge declined to deport Omar Ameen, who was accused of providing material support to the Islamic State group in 2018 and also murdering an Iraqi police officer in 2014. Ameen has refuted involvement in both crimes, saying he has never been involved in terrorist activities. 

“We are thrilled that the Immigration Judge found what we have been arguing all along — that the government does not have reliable evidence that Mr. Ameen has had any involvement in terrorism,” said Ameen’s attorney Ilyce Shugal, of Immigrant Legal Defense based in Oakland, California. “We are also glad that she made the right decision to grant him protection so that he can remain in the United States safely.  We will continue to pursue his immediate release from custody.”

Ameen resided in Sacramento with his wife and four children before he was taken into custody in 2018. A federal judge who inspected the case found that in 2014, when the police murder was alleged to have occurred, Ameen was actually in Turkey. 

He was subsequently released but promptly picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. 

The immigration officials claimed Ameen lied on his asylum application by saying he was never involved with terrorist activities, which they claim belied his involvement in the police officer's murder. 

“It is time for the government to acknowledge what multiple courts have held: Omar is not a threat to national security,” said Nicole Hallett of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic of University of Chicago Law School.  “It is time for ICE to release him to his family.”  

The government is not obligated to immediately release Ameen as it contemplates its next moves, which could include a ramped-up effort to deport Ameen, perhaps on other grounds. He is slated to appear before U.S. District Judge William Orrick on April 13 to seek his release from custody. 

His attorneys continue to make the case Ameen is the victim of misguided federal policy. 

“The federal government’s baseless targeting of Mr. Ameen to pursue a political agenda in its war on terror has always been unacceptable,” said Siobhan Waldron of Immigration Legal Defense. “The Immigration Judge’s findings make it clear that Mr. Ameen’s continued detention in the name of national security is unwarranted and unjustifiable.”  

Under Article III of the Convention Against Torture, the United States and other signatories cannot send individuals to a country where there exists a high likelihood that person would be tortured. 

Ameen’s attorneys were not only keen to prove their client was not in the country when the murder he stood accused of was committed, but that sending Ameen back to Iraq would likely result in his being tortured by authorities there. 

Numerous international bodies such as the United Nations and the U.S. State Department have made official findings that security forces in Iraq routinely use torture when interrogating suspects accused of terrorsim. 

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