The Swedish Migration Board this month denied asylum to Yonas Fikre, a Portland resident and American citizen who said he was tortured in the United Arab Emirates in 2011 at the behest of the U.S. government.
It's unclear where Fikre, a Muslim man from Oregon, will go from here. But he'll have to leave Sweden for at least five years, according to the ruling obtained by Carl Larsson, of Swedish Public Television. Fikre's Swedish lawyer, Hans Bredberg, told Larsson that he will appeal against the decision of the Swedish Migration Board.
The migration board determined it did not find enough evidence to support Fikre's claims that U.S. authorities were responsible for the abuse and torture he says he underwent in 2011. But the board also did not dispute Fikre's claims.
Intelligence reports obtained by Larsson support Fikre's story that he was approached and extensively questioned by a Portland-based intelligence officer in Khartoum, Sudan in 2010 before his trip to the United Arab Emirates the following year, where he said he was abducted and tortured.
The reports Larsson obtained add new detail to a story Fikre laid out to WW in 2012.
On April 20, 2010, Portland-based U.S. State Department agent Dave Noordeloos and another agent traveled to Khartoum to interview Fikre about subjects including Portland's largest mosque, according to the FBI records.
Fikre received an email that day from Noordeloos, according to Fikre’s emails. Noordeloos identified himself in his exchange as a state department employee working for the embassy in Sudan.
Three weeks earlier, Noordeloos had been in the office of then-Portland Police Chief Rosanne Sizer, meeting with the chief and Patrick Durkin, then Special Agent In Charge at the U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service office in San Francisco.
According to Sizer’s calendar, Noordeloos was described as an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The address on his Oregon Drivers License is also registered to Portland offices of the FBI.
According to the heavily redacted FBI records, two days after the agents contacted Fikre, they met at the embassy and questioned Fikre extensively about his business ventures (he was trying to import Fruit of the Loom t-shirts into Sudan) and the $550 he raised for a Kenyan mosque that doubled as a goat barn.
The agents asked him about terrorism plots and about Masjed As-Saber, the Portland mosque he attended. Fikre, according to the FBI file, said about 80 percent of Muslims in the Portland area probably believed in jihad because they still held an allegiance to the countries where they were born. But he said he’s never heard of anyone planning to take action against the U.S. He didn’t know any terrorists. He said no one from Portland was trying to send money overseas or leave the U.S. to train to be terrorists.
After that, according to emails obtained by Swedish Public Television, Fikre told agents he didn’t want to meet with them again. The agents tried to convince him. “The time to help yourself is now,” Noordeloos wrote in one email. “Be safe in Sudan.”
Months later Fikre moved to the United Arab Emirates and In June 2011 Fikrehewas arrested at his home in Al Ain, a city about 100 miles from Abu Dhabi. Agents searched his apartment and confiscate his computer, he said. Fikre agreed to undergo a series of lie detector tests.
His family heard nothing from him for more than 3 months, during which time Fikre says he was tortured.
“They would put you flat on the ground with your feet raised and they would beat you with this plastic baton, non-stop, non-stop until you can't walk anymore,” Fikre told Larsson shortly after arriving in Sweden in 2012. “No matter whom you hate, no matter what that person does to you... I cannot imagine torturing my enemy as bad as I was tortured.”
Fikre was released in September 2011, and directed him to leave the United Arab Emeritus. Fikre tried to board a flight to Oregon, but his boarding pass was denied on the grounds that he was on the no-fly list. Instead he boarded an afternoon flight to Stockholm.
Meanwhile a team of lawyers in the United States including falsely-accused terror suspect Brandon Mayfield have filed a $10 million lawsuit in the federal court in Portland seeking damages for the alleged torture and demanding the government remove Fikre’s name from a secret no-fly list that prohibits suspected terrorist from traveling by air.
“It's only a matter of time before a court curtails the government's authority to use the no-fly list. Fikre’s case is an excellent vehicle for a court to do so,” says Gadeir Abbas, a staff attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations and co-counsel on the case. “A judge in the area has actually held that the use of the no-fly list does deprive people of a liberty that the constitution protects, so that's really an important first step.”