(CN) - A Nigerian government protester who claimed she was beaten, raped and mutilated by agents of the Nigerian military won her bid to stay in the United States despite a felony conviction. The 9th Circuit said the 47-year-old woman "cannot be forced to choose between her conscience and torture."
Josephine Edu, a Nigerian native who now lives in the United States, asked the courts to defer her deportation after she was convicted of an aggravated felony.
The Board of Immigration Appeals agreed that Edu would probably be tortured if she returned to Nigeria, but it nonetheless reversed an immigration judge's ruling that Edu could continue living in the United States.
Edu, who became politically active by joining the Ijaw Youth Association, claimed she was severely beaten, wrongfully detained and raped on at least three occasions by Nigerian military officers. She said one officer mutilated her through female circumcision.
Edu claimed the torture was in retaliation for her anti-government protesting. She said she objected to the Nigerian government's failure to provide jobs to minority graduates, pay student loans and salaries, and provide roads, good schools, drinking water and lights.
On appeal, a three-judge panel in San Francisco reversed the immigration board's ruling, saying Edu should not be forced to give up her political beliefs for fear of being tortured and killed.
"We see no basis for returning Edu to a country where she must either give up her appropriate political behavior or face a substantial risk of torture," Judge Ferdinand Fernandez wrote.
"We grant her petition and order relief because she cannot be forced to choose between her conscience and torture," the panel ruled.
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