Georgia Man Sentenced to Three Years for Fraudulent U.S. Citizenship Amid Allegations of Persecuting Teens in Ethiopia

A 68-year-old man from Snellville, Georgia, Mezemr Abebe Belayneh, faced a three-year prison sentence today for unlawfully obtaining U.S. citizenship by deceitfully concealing his involvement in persecuting teenagers during Ethiopia’s “Red Terror” in the 1970s.

Deceptive Citizenship: Concealed Past of Persecution

Mezemr Abebe Belayneh, also known as Mezmur Amare Belayneh, secured U.S. citizenship in 2008 by falsely denying his role in committing acts of violence against perceived political opponents during Ethiopia’s Red Terror.

The Red Terror was a violent campaign by Ethiopia’s ruling military council in the late 1970s, involving detention, interrogation, torture, and execution of civilians.

Prosecution’s Stance: Condemning Deception and Human Rights Abuses

Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri emphasized that individuals who commit human rights abuses in their home countries and seek refuge in the U.S. unlawfully will be investigated and prosecuted.

The prosecution alleged that Belayneh violently assaulted political opponents in Ethiopia and falsely portrayed himself to U.S. immigration authorities to obtain citizenship.

Details of Past Atrocities: Red Terror and Concealed Conduct

During the Red Terror, Belayneh served as a civilian interrogator in Ethiopia, participating in severe beatings and interrogations of individuals with perceived political affiliations.

Belayneh concealed these actions when entering the U.S. in 2001 and during his naturalization process in 2008.

Legal Consequences: Sentence, Citizenship Revocation, and Trial Outcome

Belayneh, after being convicted in July 2023, faced charges of procuring citizenship contrary to law and citizenship to which he was not entitled.

In addition to the three-year prison sentence, Belayneh’s U.S. citizenship was revoked.

Government Agencies’ Involvement and International Collaboration

The Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Atlanta played a crucial role in investigating the case.

The HRVWCC, established in 2009, focuses on identifying, locating, and prosecuting human rights abusers in the U.S., collaborating with international efforts to address war crimes and human rights violations.

Legal Process and Collaboration: Prosecutors and Agencies Involved

Trial Attorney Patrick Jasperse of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP) and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tal C. Chaiken for the Northern District of Georgia prosecuted the case, supported by HRSP Senior Historian Dr. Christopher Hayden and the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs.

Public Involvement: Reporting Human Rights Violators

The public is encouraged to report information about human rights violators in the U.S. through the HSI tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or the online tip form on the official HSI website.

The Justice Department stresses its commitment to holding accountable those who fraudulently obtain U.S. citizenship while concealing their involvement in human rights abuses.

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