Sunday, October 31, 2010

Court saves tortured Nigerian from deportation

Court saves tortured Nigerian from deportation

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

(10-26) 13:18 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- Immigration officials who ordered the deportation of a Southern California woman to Nigeria told her she could avoid torture in her homeland - where police had repeatedly raped and beaten her decades earlier - if she refrained from dissident political activity.

That prompted an indignant ruling Tuesday from a federal appeals court in San Francisco, which said the law protects both free speech and the right to be free from brutality.

Josephine Edu "cannot be forced to choose between her conscience and torture," the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 3-0 decision shielding her from deportation.

Edu, 47, who lives in the Los Angeles area, entered the United States in 1989 and became a legal resident in 1993 after marrying a U.S. citizen. But she was ordered deported after being convicted of assault with a deadly weapon in 2002 for slashing her work supervisor with a piece of glass, the court said.

Her appeal relied on an international treaty that prohibits a person from being deported to a country where he or she is likely to be tortured.

Edu, trained as a nurse and midwife in the Niger Delta, joined a politically active group of doctors and nurses as a young woman. When the group staged demonstrations calling for jobs and government services, Edu said, police responded violently.

She testified that officers beat her at a peaceful rally in 1983, then took her to a barracks and raped her during another protest a few days later.

Military officers sexually assaulted her at three subsequent demonstrations, Edu said, the last one in December 1987, when a high-ranking officer beat her unconscious, raped her after she awoke and told subordinates to dump her at a hospital.

U.S. immigration courts said they believed Edu's testimony that conditions in Nigeria had not improved and that she was likely to be tortured if she returned. But in a 2006 ruling, the Board of Immigration Appeals granted the federal government's request for deportation and said Edu "could avoid torture by refraining from activities that would put her in danger."

That contradicts the purpose of the treaty against torture, the federal appeals court said Tuesday.

"We reject the (immigration board's) decision that in order to avoid torture she must simply give up an activity that most countries (including Nigeria) ... guarantee to their citizens," Judge Ferdinand Fernandez said in the court's ruling.

E-mail Bob Egelko at

This article appeared on page E - 12 of the San Francisco Chronicle

© 2010 Hearst Communications Inc.
Hearst Newspapers


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