Ethiopia Con­tin­ues to Hold U.S. Man, Frus­trat­ing Fam­ily

The Washington Post Sunday - - National News -

TREN­TON, N.J. — The fam­ily of a U.S. cit­i­zen be­ing held in Ethiopia has grown in­creas­ingly frus­trated that he re­mains de­tained de­spite re­ports that he would be re­leased.

A con­gress­man’s of­fice said this month that Amir Me­shal, 24, would soon be freed. But Ethiopia then changed its mind, ac­cord­ing to an in­ter­nal U.S. gov­ern­ment doc­u­ment that was dis­closed last week.

“It was an emo­tional roller coaster for us,” said Mo­hammed Me­shal, Amir’s fa­ther, speak­ing from their home in Tin­ton Falls on the New Jer­sey shore. “We started cook­ing and mar­i­nat­ing the meat for his home­com­ing, and the next minute, ev­ery­thing col­lapses.”

Amir Me­shal was in So­ma­lia at a time when much of the coun­try was con­trolled by Is­lamic mil­i­tants. In De­cem­ber and Jan­uary, hun­dreds of peo­ple, in­clud­ing Is­lamic mil­i­tants, fled So­ma­lia for Kenya af­ter Ethiopian troops in­vaded the coun­try in sup­port of a weak but in­ter­na­tion­ally backed gov­ern­ment.

Me­shal was ar­rested in Kenya, where U.S. au­thor­i­ties in­ter­viewed him and, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials in Wash­ing­ton, de­ter­mined that he was not a threat and had not vi­o­lated U.S. law. The U.S. Em­bassy in Nairobi asked Kenya to de­port him to the United States, then filed a for­mal protest when it learned Me­shal had been re­turned to So­ma­lia and then sent to Ethiopia.

At an April 13 hear­ing in Ad­dis Ababa, a mil­i­tary tri­bunal de­clined to charge Me­shal with a crime, U.S. of­fi­cials said. The State De­part­ment made ar­range­ments to fly him home, then dis­cov­ered that the FBI had placed Me­shal’s name on a no-fly list of sus­pected se­cu­rity threats main­tained by the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity.

U.S. of­fi­cials agreed last week that Me­shal should be re­moved from the list and brought back to the United States, but now the Ethiopian gov­ern­ment is stand­ing in his way.

“I’m wor­ried about his wel­fare, his safety, his se­cu­rity,” Mo­hammed Me­shal said. “Why doesn’t the U.S. gov­ern­ment de­mand his im­me­di­ate re­lease and bring him home?”

Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.), who sits on the House intelligence com­mit­tee, said he has been frus­trated by the of­ten-con­tra­dic­tory in­for­ma­tion he has re­ceived about Me­shal from U.S. gov­ern­ment agen­cies. Holt has asked Sec­re­tary of State Con­doleezza Rice to in­ter­vene.

“We cer­tainly had hoped that this case would be re­solved ear­lier,” said State De­part­ment spokesman Tom Casey. “We con­tinue to dis­cuss this is­sue with the Ethiopian gov­ern­ment.”

The Me­shals ve­he­mently deny that their son was a fighter, say­ing he had been a tour guide in Dubai. They did not know he was in So­ma­lia un­til U.S. of­fi­cials showed up at their door in early Fe­bru­ary.

Rel­a­tives have not been able to talk with Me­shal, al­though they have re­ceived writ­ten mes­sages from him through U.S. Em­bassy of­fi­cials in Ethiopia who vis­ited him. He told them that he was be­ing treated well. As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers Re­becca San­tana and Anne Gearan and McClatchy News­pa­pers writer Jonathan S. Lan­day con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.