Saturday, November 03, 2007

African may be jailed again

The Department of Homeland Security — on Halloween no less — asked a San Antonio federal judge to reverse his order that freed Sam Kambo and to allow its agents to jail the former member of the Sierra Leone government once again.

The basis for the request comes from what the department calls "newly discovered evidence" — a ruling from three administrative immigration judges that came down Oct. 19. That ruling blocked a lower court bond decision that U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez cited in ordering immigration officials to free Kambo, 39, on $12,500 bond.

Kambo, who readily admitted involvement in a junta that overthrew Sierra Leone's government in a bloodless coup in April 1992, was detained when he showed up at the immigration offices in Windcrest in October 2006 for his interview for a green card.

Kambo, of Austin, was accused of participating in atrocities and extrajudicial killings of rebels in Sierra Leone and was targeted for deportation. He was cleared at his immigration trial in San Antonio this summer.

The immigration judge also granted him release on bond, but the government kept him jailed and appealed the bond decision and the trial ruling to the Board of Immigration Appeals in Virginia. Kambo turned to federal court, seeking release while the appeals were pending.

On Oct. 18, Rodriguez issued a scathing order saying Kambo's continued detention violated his constitutional rights. Saying the government gave him no justified reason for keeping Kambo jailed, Rodriguez ordered his release pending a ruling on the government's appeal of the trial. That appeal is still pending with the board.

Kambo's lawyer, Simon Azar-Farr, said he and Kambo plan to respond to the government's latest move, which weighs heavily on Kambo.

"When you have all this uncertainty, it's difficult for you to plan. The family and I were just thinking of taking the kids out on Halloween — I missed it last year because I was detained — and all of a sudden I get this message, so as you can imagine, it's a rollercoaster," Kambo said. "It's tough on me, my family and friends, but we hope at the end of the day, we'll prevail."

In its Oct. 19 ruling, the Virginia judges agreed with the government's claims that Immigration Judge Gary Burkholder, who presided over Kambo's trial, did not consider or address some evidence in the case before handing Kambo the win.

Kambo admits he was a member of the National Provisional Ruling Council, but denies involvement or knowledge in atrocities, including the extrajudicial killings in December 1992 of 29 people suspected of trying to overthrow the NPRC.

Kambo said he quit the group in 1994 when he came to Texas to study on a U.N.-sponsored program, and was disillusioned with the NPRC.

As part of his bond conditions, Kambo is supposed to report every two weeks to the immigration office in Windcrest.

He reports this morning for the first time since his release.

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