Yonas Fikre. Foto: SVT

Swedish government denies asylum for US citizen who claims torture at request of U.S. government


Yonas Fikre, who immigrated to the United States at age 13, reported that he was abducted and tortured in the United Arab Emirates in 2011 at the behest of the U.S. government.

It has taken the Swedish government more than three years to make a ruling on the case.

”This case is a 'security case', which contributes to the long processing time”, says Sophia Öhvall Lindberg, spokesperson for the Swedish Migration Board. ”We are assessing the case based on the immigration laws.”

Meanwhile intelligence reports obtained by SVT support Fikre's story that he was approached and extensively questioned by two Portland-based Intelligence officers in Khartoum in 2010 before his trip to the UAE where he said he was abducted and tortured.

On April 20, 2010, A Portland-assigned U.S. State Department agent and an FBI agent Traveled to Khartoum to Interview Fikre, according to the FBI records.

Fikre received an email that day from Dave Noordeloos, according to Fikre's emails obtained by SVT. Noordeloos identified himself as a state department employee working for the embassy in Sudan.

Less than three weeks earlier, Noordeloos had been in the office of Portland Police Chief Rosanne Sizer, Meeting with the chief and Patrick Durkin, then Special Agent In Charge at the US Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service office in San Francisco.

According to the FBI records, Fikre met with the agents two days later. They questioned him extensively about his business ventures (he was trying to import Fruit of the Loom t-shirts into Sudan) and the $550 he raised for a mosque in Kenya that doubled as a goat barn.

The agents asked him about terrorism plots and about the Portland mosque he attended. Fikre, according to the FBI file, sad he didn't know any terrorists. He said no one from Portland was trying to send money overseas or leave the U.S. to train to be terrorists.

After that Fikre told agents he didn't want to meet with them again.  The agents try to convince him, telling him, ”The time to help yourself is now,” according to an email provided to SVT.  Months later Fikre is arrested in Abu Dahbi. His family doesn't hear from him for more than 3 months, during which time Fikre says he was tortured.

”They would put you flat on the ground with your feet raised and they would beat you with this plastic baton, non-stop, non-stop until you can't walk anymore”, Fikre told SVT shortly after arriving in Sweden in 2012. ”No matter whom you hate, no matter what that person does to you... I cannot imagine torturing my enemy as bad as I was tortured.”

Fikre was released in September 2011, when captives took him to the airport and told to leave the United Arab Emeritus, according to an amended complaint filed last month in a Federal court in Portland, Or. He tried to board a flight home, but his boarding pass was denied on the grounds that he was on the no-fly list.

A team of lawyers in the United States have filed a $10 million lawsuit seeking damages for the torture and demanding the government remove Fikre's name from a secret no-fly list that prohibits suspected terrorist from traveling by air.

”It's only a matter of time before a court curtails the government's authority to use the No Fly List. Fikre's case is an excellent vehicle for a court to do so”, says Gadeir Abbas, a staff attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations and co-counsel on the case. ”A judge in the area has actually held that the use of the No Fly List does deprive people of a liberty that the constitution protects, so that's really an important first step”.

The Board's decision means that Fikre will be sent back to the USA. According to the Board, there are no indications that the USA will refuse to receive him. The Board do not question the torture in UAE but do not find evidence proving U.S. involvement. Fikre will not be allowed to return to Sweden for 5 years. This is because the security police believe that he is a security risk.

Mr Fikre's Swedish lawyer, Hans Bredberg, states that he will appeal against the decision of the Swedish Migration Board.​

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