Accused Ethiopian torturer loses appeal

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Kelbessa
Negewo, the former Atlanta bellhop accused of torturing political
opponents during the brutal period in Ethiopia’s history known as the
Red Terror campaign, has lost an appeal to stay in the United States.

Negewo’s case was significant because his was the first removal
order obtained by ICE under the Intelligence Reform Act of 2004.
Michael Keegan, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE) in Washington, said Negewo, who is currently being
detained by immigration authorities in Atlanta, can still appeal.
Negewo fled his homeland in 1987 and came to the United States under a
student visa.

A few years later, he was identified by one of his accusers,
Edgegayehu Taye, who worked at the same hotel. Taye notified two other
Ethiopian women who identified Negewo as the man who had tortured them
during the bloody regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam.

“We are pleased that this process has come to a definitive
conclusion that will result in an added measure of justice with Mr.
Negewo being removed from this country where he should never have been
allowed to enter and receive asylum,” said Michael Tyler, a partner
with the firm of Kilpatrick Stockton, which represented the women. “And
it’s altogether fitting and proper that he be returned to Ethiopia
where he has been convicted for his acts of murder and torture and
sentenced to life imprisonment.”

Tyler said he had spoken to his clients who are “pleased with this result.”

Negewo had vigorously fought deportation claiming that if he were
returned to Ethiopia, he would likely be tortured. He denied any
wrongdoing.

In its ruling earlier this month, the Department of Justice’s Board
of Immigration Appeals, upheld a federal judge’s determination that
Negewo committed acts of persecution, torture and extrajudicial
killings against political opponents in his homeland. It also said
Negewo could expect to receive “at least some aspect of due process in
the Ethiopian court system.”

In 2002, Ethiopia convicted him of crimes in absentia.

Negewo’s case also garnered much attention because of the way in
which he was identified, which had the makings of a Hollywood script.
Taye, one of Negewo’s accusers, worked at the same hotel as a waitress.
According to previous AJC articles, about 15 years ago, a shocked Taye
recognized Negewo as she stepped off an elevator.

In a 2005 interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Taye,
recalled that period in Ethiopia. “There were a lot of things going
on,” she said. “People were arrested, tortured and people
disappeared… . You lived in fear and in terror always.”

Neither Taye nor the other women could be reached for comment.

Taye said she was arrested and taken to a place where she was forced
to strip to her underwear. There, she was hogtied, a wooden pole placed
between her hands and feet, suspended between two pieces of furniture
and beaten.

She didn’t see Negewo again until she moved to Atlanta. Taye said
she was horrified to see him on the job. “It was very hard for me to
see him,” she said. “I thought I was dreaming. “

Taye said she went home and cried uncontrollably. “He was the primary reason for me to flee my country.”

In 1990, according to a previous AJC article, the women sued Negewo.
Several years later a federal judge ordered him to pay $1.5 million in
civil damages.

But that wasn’t the end. In 1995, the former Immigration and
Naturalization Service granted Negewo citizenship. “That obviously
should not have happened,” Kenneth Smith, an ICE official, was quoted
as saying in that same article. In 2001, the government sued to revoke
his citizenship, which he later voluntarily relinquished.

Then last year, authorities arrested Negewo at his Union City home.

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