Courts

Omar Ameen can be deported, judge rules

PHOTO: FBI Sacramento

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A federal immigration judge ruled Tuesday that Omar Ameen, the Sacramento refugee cleared in the 2014 murder of an Iraqi police officer, can be deported to Turkey or Iraq for lying on his refugee application.

The ruling comes as a devastating revelation to Ameen’s legal team, who have said that a deportation back to Iraq could easily result in their client’s death.

“Our own State Department has repeatedly found that Iraq’s institutions are corrupt, and its courts and government agents engage in torture and extrajudicial killings,” Rachelle Barbour, a lawyer for Ameen, told The Update.  “Omar has been directly threatened with an extrajudicial execution by Colonel Abdul Jabbar – an Iraqi militia leader who told VICE News that he wanted to “drink Omar’s blood.”  Barzan bragged to us that he would arrange for Omar’s execution upon Omar’s return. Barzan was one of the witnesses that the FBI relied on.  Omar cannot be returned to Iraq, that is clear.”

The judge also found that Ameen wasn’t affiliated with any terrorist-related organization, an accusation that has surrounded him since his initial arrest in 2018. That determination, Barbour says, is her biggest takeaway from the entire process.

“The big takeaway from the Immigration Judge’s ruling is that Omar is not a terrorist, as we’ve been saying for years.  Omar has never participated in or helped any terrorist group,” she said. “The Immigration Judge definitively repudiated the false witnesses procured by the FBI.  The FBI vouched for these witnesses’ baseless claims that Omar had committed the most heinous acts. Omar has bravely and steadfastly stared down the full might of the U.S. Government. Now two courts in which the Government holds a clear advantage have refused to call him a terrorist.”    

As The Update previously reported, Ameen was accused by federal prosecutors of lying “repeatedly and profoundly” by incorrectly portraying his situation in Iraq. Ameen told concocted stories of his father being murdered and his cousin being kidnapped in order to gain entry to the US. In reality, authorities say, Ameen’s father died of a stroke and his cousin was arrested.

Ameen’s lawyers had argued that an FBI agent coaxed him into a false confession about the alleged lies through intimidation and the repeated invoking of his family. That narrative was present at a hearing for Ameen last month, according to transcripts released by KCRA 3.

“He was asking me specific questions and wanted specific answers and to agree on everything that he says,” Ameen, who is held at the Golden State Annex detention center in McFarland, said through an interpreter. “And if I did not agree with everything he said he started raising his hand, raising his voice, and threatened my wife and children.”

Ameen was cleared earlier this year of allegedly traveling with an ISIS convoy to the home of an Iraqi police officer, opening fire on him with Kalashnikov rifles, and finishing him off after a gunfight. Data obtained by his attorneys, such as cell phone data and tower pings, placed him over 500 miles from Iraq in Mersin, Turkey just an hour after the officer was killed.

Ameen’s lawyers have sought to have him released until his next hearing for a request to change his refugee status. Ameen himself is expected to testify himself in an effort to stop his looming deportation.

Ethan Biando
Ethan Biando is a freelance journalist from Sacramento. His writing focuses on crime and justice as well as issues of racial inequality. Find him on Twitter @ethanb822.

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