- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 6, 2000

Deportation to Iran?

An Iranian woman widely regarded as a human rights advocate will face an Immigration Court today where the federal government will argue that her political asylum should be revoked because she was a member of a "terrorist organization."

Mahnaz Samadi, who was jailed and tortured in Iran for opposing the government, faces deportation to Iran and, her supporters say, certain execution if she loses her fight to remain in the United States, where she was granted asylum in 1995.

Her case has attracted strong bipartisan support in Congress with members suspecting that her arrest in April was part of the Clinton administration's efforts to mend relations with the Iranian regime.

Ms. Samadi, who is being held in an Alabama jail, will participate in the hearing over a video link with the Immigration Court in Northern Virginia. Today's proceeding will set a date for a full individual hearing where lawyers for both sides can present evidence and call witnesses, a court spokesman said.

An INS spokesman yesterday said Ms. Samadi was arrested because, when she applied for asylum, she failed to disclose she had been a member of the National Liberation Army, an Iraq-based armed group that has been trying to overthrow the Iranian government.

The State Department declared it a terrorist organization in 1997, two years after Ms. Samadi received her asylum.

In her detention order, she is accused of belonging to an organization "designed to liberate Iran."

Typical of the congressional response is a letter from Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, New Jersey Democrat and member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Judiciary committees.

"Ms. Samadi has dedicated her life to ending the reign of the brutal dictatorship that currently rules in Iran," Mr. Torricelli wrote to National Security Adviser Samuel R. Berger.

"It is unconscionable that someone who suffered years of torture in Iran's prisons … is now being detained in our country, where she hoped to find refuge."

Touching benefit

Sierra Leonean Ambassador John Ernest Leigh is grateful to a group of congressional staffers who are organizing a fund-raiser to help his war-torn country that has been terrorized by brutal rebels who mutilate and kill civilians.

Mr. Leigh, who is disappointed with the response from the Clinton administration, told Embassy Row yesterday that his West African nation will receive "comfort, healing and hope for the future" from efforts like the benefit tomorrow evening planned by the Capitol Hill Friends of Sierra Leone.

"It is quite unusual," he said. "They are really familiar with what's going on in Sierra Leone. The administration is not really interested."

"This is not a civil war," he said, blaming neighboring Liberia for supporting the Revolutionary United Front rebels, whose tactic is to chop off hands and arms of civilians to terrorize the population.

Sierra Leone faults the United States for pressuring it into supporting a peace plan last year that gave amnesty to the rebels, who control the country's diamond area. They have resumed their war and the so-called Lome peace accords have collapsed.

The State Department has said it was only an honest broker in the accords and endorsed the peace plan to prevent further violence.

The fund-raiser will be held at the Canadian Embassy tomorrow from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets range from $50 to $250, with proceeds going to Catholic Relief Services to support its relief efforts in Sierra Leone. For reservations, call 202/225-5017 or 202/256-7733.

The embassy agreed to host the event because of its support for Sierra Leone. A Canadian nongovernmental organization investigated the illegal trade in diamonds to fund armed insurrections.

Diplomatic hearings

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee today will hold hearings on the nominations for four ambassadorships beginning at 11 a.m. in room 419 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

The nominees are Michael G. Kozak for Belarus, John Martin O'Keefe for the Kyrgyzstan, John F. Tefft for Lithuania and W. Robert Pearson for Turkey.

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