Somali jailed on Shore may get out on bond

December 22, 1992|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Staff Writer

A Somali man may soon get his first taste of freedom in the United States after being locked up in the Wicomico County Detention Center for more than a year while seeking political asylum.

It would be a tenuous freedom, however, for Jama Farah Mahamed, 24, if he is released by Immigration and Naturalization Services officials as expected on $2,500 bond. He has lost two court battles in his bid to gain refugee status, and his case is on appeal to a third court.

His lawyer, Michele R. Pistone, said yesterday that organizations familiar with the case were raising the money to free Mr. Mahamed from the jail, where he has been since Dec. 7, 1991. "The Somali community in this area, and a lot of other people, have shown interest in this case," Ms. Pistone said.

Ms. Pistone said INS told her yesterday that it would approve her request for bond and that Mr. Mahamed could be released as early as today.

Louis D. Crocetti Jr., deputy director of INS in Baltimore, said it is highly unusual for a detainee to be freed on bail. He said officials agreed to release Mr. Mahamed because he has relatives in Virginia and because conditions in famine-stricken Somalia remain unsettled.

Mr. Mahamed told a Board of Immigration Appeals judge earlier this year that he fled Somalia in November 1991 because members of his family were singled out for persecution. He said rebels sought them be

cause his father was a member of the same clan as deposed President Siad Barre.

In testimony to the immigration court, Mr. Mahamed said rebels went to his home in Mogadishu in January 1991. He said he hid in a storage area of the home while the rebels killed his father by cutting his throat. He said he fled to another part of the country, and learned later that his mother had been killed in a bomb attack.

Fearing for his own life, he told the court, he fled to Kenya and then traveled to Sweden before coming to the United States. But the immigration court denied his request for asylum, and that decision was upheld on appeal by U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg, who wondered why it took 10 months after his father's murder for Mr. Mohammed to leave Somalia.

Judge Legg, however, granted Mr. Mahamed a stay of deportation while the case is appealed to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., where it is pending.

Ms. Pistone has complained that Mr. Mahamed was handicapped at his appearance in the immigration court because he was unable to get a lawyer. But she expressed relief that her client would be out of the jail, where INS leases space for people detained while seeking asylum.

Mr. Crocetti said that as a condition of release, Mr. Mahamed would have to go to an INS office whenever requested. He said officials probably would demand that he appear about once a month.

He said Mr. Mahamed will be deported if he loses his appeal.

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