ATLANTA – A jury has convicted Mezemr Abebe Belayneh of fraudulently obtaining U.S. citizenship by lying about his role in persecuting teenagers in Ethiopia because of their political views.
“The jury’s verdict is consistent with our commitment to holding accountable human rights abusers who lie to gain entry to the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “We are grateful for the remarkable dedication and perseverance of our law enforcement partners as they fought for justice for the courageous victims, several of whom provided testimony about oppressive violence during the trial.”
“The Justice Department is committed to protecting human rights, and those who commit atrocities will find no safe haven in the United States,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Thanks to the courage of the victims of these terrible abuses and the persistence of investigators and prosecutors, Mezemr Abebe Belayneh will finally be brought to justice for the violence he committed against young people in Ethiopia 45 years ago.”
“Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is committed to identifying and apprehending human rights abusers who attempt to evade justice by seeking safety in the United States,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Travis Pickard, who oversees HSI operations in Georgia and Alabama monitored. “The United States is not a safe haven for these criminals, and we will never stop looking for them or seeking justice for their victims.”
According to U.S. Attorney Buchanan, the charges and other information presented in court are: Mezemr Abebe Belayneh illegally obtained U.S. citizenship in 2008 by lying and concealing that he was persecuting political opponents during a period known as the “Red Terror.” and committed acts of violence against them. in Ethiopia. The Red Terror was a campaign of brutal violence in the late 1970s in which Ethiopia’s ruling Military Council and its supporters arrested, interrogated, tortured and executed thousands of perceived political opponents.
During the Red Terror, Belayneh served as a civilian interrogator in a makeshift prison called Menafesha in the Ethiopian city of Dilla. Belayneh held teenage victims in an overcrowded prison for weeks or months, interrogated them about their political beliefs, and directed and participated in severe beatings in which they were whipped or beaten with sticks. To the amusement of the prison guards, Belayneh also forced the prisoners to physically fight each other. Belayneh concealed this behavior when he received a visa to enter the United States in 2001 and naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 2008.
Mezemr Abebe Belayneh, 67, of Snellville, was convicted by a jury on July 26, 2023. The jury convicted Belayneh on one count of unlawful citizenship and one count of acquiring citizenship to which he was not entitled. His sentencing is scheduled for November 1, 2023.
The HSI Atlanta Field Office investigated the case with coordination from the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC). Established in 2009, the HRVWCC advances government efforts to identify, locate, and prosecute human rights violators in the United States, including those known or suspected of participating in persecution, war crimes, genocide, torture, extrajudicial killings, and female mutilation, and the use or recruitment of child soldiers.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tal C. Chaiken and Trial Attorney Patrick Jasperse of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Procedures Section (HRSP) are prosecuting the case, with assistance from HRSP Senior Historian Dr. Christopher Hayden. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs also provided significant assistance.
Members of the public who have information about former human rights violators in the United States are urged to contact the U.S. via the HSI tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or the online tip form at www.ice.gov/ – Contact law enforcement authorities. exec/forms/hsi-tips/tips.asp.
For further information, please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Public Affairs at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.