Ethiopian Human Rights Abuser Sentenced for Fraudulently Obtaining U.S. Citizenship

A naturalized US citizen residing in Alexandria, Virginia has been sentenced to 37 months in prison for having fraudulently obtained US citizenship. Mergia Negussie Habteyes, 58, admitted to a series of lies in the naturalization process, including failure to disclose participation in persecution during the Red Terror Period in Ethiopia.

According to a Department of Justice (DOJ) release, Negussie admitted during a plea agreement to participating in the persecution of detainees in Ethiopia from about 1977 to 1978. During this period, known as the Red Terror, Negussie injured and abused detainees for their political opinion by beating them with weapons including belts, rods, and other objects.

Negussie caused permanent scarring and injury to some of the detainees while questioning them about their affiliation with the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP) and the opposition activities of the EPRP, which was politically opposed to the ruling party.

Negussie entered the country in 1999 by telling a series of lies to US immigration authorities. He obtained citizenship in 2008.

Negussie has since admitted to lying to immigration authorities when specifically asked during the naturalization process if he had ever persecuted a person for their political opinion, committed a crime for which he was not arrested, or lied to US immigration officials.

In addition to Negussie’s 37-month sentence, Negussie’s citizenship was revoked.

The case was investigated by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) unit with support from the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC).

The HRVWCC assists in the government’s efforts to identify, locate, and prosecute human rights abusers in the United States, including those who are known or suspected to have participated in persecution, war crimes, genocide, torture, extrajudicial killings, female genital mutilation, and the use or recruitment of child soldiers.

“Negussie hid his past atrocities as a human rights abuser and lied his way into the United States,” said U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger.  “United States citizenship and the protections and privileges that accompany it is not intended for those who persecute their fellow man. My thanks to the prosecutors and law enforcement agents and officers for their outstanding work on this case.”

Posted in The Takedown

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