Tortured Tamil given asylum in U.S. after 7 years in detention
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 01 October 2008, 12:26 GMT]
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California announced Wednesday an immigration victory for Ahilan Nadarajah, an ethnic Tamil farmer who, after being tortured in his native Sri Lanka, sought asylum in the United States. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in the U.S. held him for nearly seven years, first in immigration jail and later under electronic monitoring because of secret, fake evidence accusing him of being a 'terrorist'.
"My quest for freedom has ended happily, after almost seven years," Nadarajah said. "When I was in detention, I almost lost hope in this country, but today I can say freedom is no lie here. I thank the United States for giving me freedom," ACLU said in its website.
"Nadarajah's ordeal began in 1997, when Sri Lankan Army soldiers battling the insurgent group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) arrested him and accused him of belonging to the group. They beat him, hung him upside down, pricked his toenails and burned him with cigarettes. A bribe from his family made possible his release four months later, but soldiers arrested him again in 2000 and 2001. Each time they tortured him further, holding his head inside a bag full of gasoline until he lost consciousness and beating him with plastic bags full of sand. After his third release, Nadarajah's family paid to have him smuggled out of Sri Lanka. He arrived in Mexico in October 2001, and U.S. immigration officials arrested him days later, when he tried to cross into the United States," the ACLU further said in its website.
Nadarajah's bureaucratic nightmare ended when the U.S. Attorney General recently declined to review a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals in his case. As a result, Nadarajah will soon receive refugee status. In a year, he will be eligible for a green card, and in five years, he can become a U.S. citizen. Also, he now can travel to visit his parents, who live as refugees in southern India after having escaped violence in Sri Lanka.
Ahilan Arulanantham, the ACLU/SC director for immigrants' rights and national security who represented Nadarajah, said this case shows how our anti-terrorism bureaucracy can destroy the lives of innocent people. "This man came to the United States because he believed that this country would free him from the horrific mistreatment he suffered as a Tamil in Sri Lanka," Arulanantham said. "Instead, through no fault of his own, ICE officials subjected him to indefinite imprisonment based on secret evidence."