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Man Accused In Ethiopian Red Terror Arrested In Atlanta

In the southeastern US city of Atlanta, Georgia, federal agents Tuesday arrested an Ethiopian man, accused of murder and torture under the regime of former dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested 54-year-old Kelbessa Negewo. In the 1970’s he allegedly helped wage a campaign known as the Red Terror. US Court records say he imprisoned numerous innocent civilians, killing many by firing squads. The records also say his guards forced women to undress. They then bound their arms and legs before hanging them from poles prior to severe beatings.

Kenneth Smith is the Special Agent-in-Charge for the I-C-E in Atlanta.

He says, "It’s an investigation we worked for a long period of time, but agents here in Atlanta arrested Kelbessa Negewo with an administrative arrest warrant at his home here in an Atlanta suburb. He’s charged with being a human rights violator from Ethiopia, who was involved in numerous acts of torture, including murder, in that country during the late 1970’s."

Mr. Smith says Mr. Negewo came to the attention of US authorities in 1990.

"An individual who had been a victim of this regime encountered him in an Atlanta hotel and recognized him as being one of her torturers from the 1970’s," he says.

Court papers say the Ethiopian dictatorship imprisoned him for a time because of his actions. But he later fled to the United States where he eventually became a citizen. Mr. Negewo has renounced his US citizenship and is now awaiting a hearing.

"He’s in custody now and he’ll be detained until he appears before an immigration judge here in Atlanta in the coming days. And then the immigration judge will make a determination as to when future hearings will be held. And ultimately a removal hearing will be held to determined when he’ll be returned to Ethiopia, deported from the United States and returned to Ethiopia," says mr. Smith.

Authorities say in 2002, the Ethiopian government convicted Mr. Negewo in absentia for human rights violations, including 13 murders. He was also sentenced in absentia to life in prison.