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Judge orders feds to show why refugee accused of killing Iraqi cop can’t be released

Judge gavel, scales of justice and law books in court (BrianAJackson/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

A federal judge in San Francisco on Tuesday ordered government immigration officials to hold a bond hearing within 30 days to determine whether Iraqi refugee Omar Ameen can be released back to his family in Sacramento pending deportation proceedings.

The 10-page order by U.S. District Judge William Orrick requires the government to “provide Ameen a constitutionally sufficient bond hearing — placing the burden of proof on the government to show by clear and convincing evidence that Ameen remains a flight risk or danger to the community — within 30 days of the date of this order.”

The order comes nearly four years after Ameen was first arrested by the FBI in Arden Arcade and accused of being a terrorist leader who killed an Iraqi police officer in 2014, and weeks after an immigration judge ruled that he cannot be sent back to Iraq because of the likelihood he could face torture.

U.S. and Iraqi officials originally sought to have Ameen extradited back to Iraq to face trial, but a magistrate judge in Sacramento ruled in April 2021 that Ameen should be released. Instead, federal immigration officials took him from the Sacramento County Main Jail and placed him into custody in a Central California facility while he awaited hearings on his deportation.

One of Ameen’s attorneys celebrated the order and renewed the plea that he be allowed to return to his family in Sacramento.

“How many times does Omar have to win in court before he can finally rejoin his family in Sacramento?” Assistant Federal Defender Rachelle Barbour wrote in an email to The Sacramento Bee. “His oldest son just turned 18 years old. His baby daughter will soon go to kindergarten. He has been in custody almost four years.”

Barbour, who helped win an order halting the government’s efforts to extradite him to Iraq for trial, noted that the terrorism claims have not held up.

“Omar obliterated the false charge against him in the extradition case,” she wrote. “The immigration judge did not sustain the government’s charges of terrorism.

“The district court just held that Omar hasn’t gotten a fair hearing on whether he should be in custody. But Omar’s still sitting behind bars. It’s way past time for him to rejoin his family and take back up the quiet life that was shattered when he was arrested on false charges in August 2018.”

A judge ultimately found Ameen lied on his immigration papers to enter the United States, but said government lawyers had not proven he participated in terrorist activities.

His lawyers have been fighting for nearly four years to convince judges that Ameen had no ties to terror and that he was in Turkey with his family at the time the police officer was killed in Iraq.

In the court order Tuesday, the judge found that a December 2021 bond hearing violated Ameen’s due process rights and concluded that federal officials have the burden of proving that he is a flight risk or danger to the community.

“Placing the burden on the government is particularly appropriate in Ameen’s case where the government had amassed significant amounts of evidence from the extradition proceedings and Ameen had been in federal custody since 2018,” the judge wrote. “There was no basis for placing the burden of proof on Ameen in his initial bond hearing.

“He is entitled to a constitutionally compliant bond hearing to be held within thirty days of the date of this order.”


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