Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bangladeshi War Crimes Fugitive Deported From US

BILL WEST

A former Bangladeshi army Lt. Colonel who was convicted of murdering the “founding father” of Bangladesh in a 1975 coup and who has been a wanted fugitive for that crime since his conviction in 1998, was finally deported from the United States from Los Angeles, having arrived on June 18 in Dhaka. The deportation was reported in the Bangladesh newspaper New Nation. The fugitive war criminal, Mohiuddin Ahmed, came to the United States in 1996 on a visitor’s visa from another Middle East country where he had been serving a prior Bangladesh government as a diplomat. It was the Awami League government that followed that pursued the prosecution of Ahmed and others involved in the coup and murders. Twelve former army officers were so convicted and sentenced to death.

From a US immigration perspective, Ahmed was initially identified by what was then the embryonic INS Investigations Division human rights persecutor apprehension effort run by what was the INS Headquarters National Security Unit. Those initial investigative and prosecution efforts, however, met with some internal lethargy, particularly since they happened around 9-11 and the ensuing enhanced INS counter-terrorism focus. INS was then merged into DHS and its Investigations Division became ICE. The human rights persecutor program evolved into something called Operation No Safe Haven, and eventually No Safe Haven became a small but viable national investigative effort focusing on aliens within the US who were human rights violators and “modern day” war criminals in their home countries. The Mohiuddin Ahmed case came back into play.

Ahmed had been put under removal proceedings but was not previously detained. After he lost a final appeal before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in March 2007, ICE took him into custody under what was then a “final” order of removal. Ahmed continued with last-ditch legal efforts to stop his deportation, but those “finally” failed and, as reported in the Bangladeshi media, he now is in custody in that country facing further justice there.

This case demonstrates that ICE’s Operation No Safe Haven is a viable and successful program and all those involved in bringing this case to successful conclusion should be applauded. The targeting of such foreign nationals within the United States is a noble pursuit. If anything, additional investigative resources should be assigned to such endeavors.

What is dismaying about this case is it demonstrates the extremes that “due process” in deportation proceedings can and often do occur. Ahmed entered the US in 1996. His deportation proceedings, including numerous appeal efforts, took years. He was under investigation and prosecution by the US Government attempting to deport him for many years and great expense...worthy efforts, of course, but here was a convicted war crimes fugitive who played the US legal system for everything it was worth.

It should be noted that removal (deportation) proceedings are not criminal proceedings. They are civil/administrative proceedings. Procedures and rules of evidence may somewhat parallel criminal case procedures but they are also different. Unfortunately, the removal process has evolved over many years into a complex and lengthy system that, quite literally, provides alien respondents (“defendants”) with even more appeal rights than criminal defendants in Federal criminal cases.

There is an old saying among immigration law enforcement professionals that, “It ain’t over till the alien wins.” The immigration defense bar has done its best to insure that is true. Unfortunately for America’s security interest, the concept of fairness in due process in these proceedings has become solidly warped in favor of the alien respondent. Such proceedings can surely remain “fair” and still be streamlined and shortened considerably. The Mohiuddin Ahmed case, while a national security success for the USG, is also another example of what is very wrong with the removal system itself. If Congress is interested in genuine immigration “reform” it can include radically downsizing the concept and nature of “due process” in immigration removal proceedings. #

This article first appeared in Counter Terrorism blog on June 19, 2007 6:40 PM
http://counterterrorismblog.org/2007/06/bangladeshi_war_crimes_fugitiv.php

Bill West is a retired INS/ICE Supervisory Special Agent who ran organized crime and national security investigations. He is now a counter-terrorism consultant and freelance writer