A 54-year-old Atlanta man suspected of committing numerous acts of torture in his native Ethiopia has been ordered deported by a federal immigration judge to his home country, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokeswoman said yesterday.
U.S. Immigration Judge William A. Cassidy ruled that Kelbessa Negewo was responsible for arresting, torturing and killing perceived political opponents in his native Ethiopia during the 1970s as part of a military dictatorship led by Mengistu Haile Mariam and known as the “Dergue.”
The case is the first removal order obtained by ICE agents under the new authorities of the recently enacted Intelligence Reform Act of 2004.
Court records show that Negewo served as chairman of what was called the “Higher Zone 9,” one of several specialized units in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, that employed a campaign of torture, arbitrary imprisonment and summary executions against perceived enemies of the government. The campaign was known as “Red Terror.”
ICE spokeswoman Sue Brown said Negewo came to the United States on a student visa in August 1987. A year later, she said, he applied for and ultimately obtained immigration benefits in this country. He later adjusted to a permanent resident and became a citizen.
Ms. Brown said an investigation by ICE agents into Negewo, who was living and working in the Atlanta area, began after several of his reputed torture victims who had relocated from Ethiopia to Atlanta encountered him in the city by chance.
The ICE investigation showed that Negewo made false statements about his past human rights violations to obtain his U.S. citizenship, which led to a revocation of it in October 2004. He was arrested under provisions of the Intelligence Reform Act in January and put in detention to await an immigration hearing, which took place on Tuesday.
Judge Cassidy, after two days of testimony, denied all relief and ordered Negewo removed from the United States.
Ms. Brown said Negewo’s removal is the latest accomplishment as part of the “No Safe Haven Program,” ICE’s ongoing initiative to identify, apprehend, prosecute and remove human rights violators. ICE attorneys are tracking and litigating more than 900 cases nationwide involving human rights violators from more than 85 countries, she said.