Tuesday, October 8, 2013

October 8, 2013 (Denver Post) — The prosecutor in the trial of an Ethiopian accused of taking part in torture and murder during political upheaval in the African nation told jurors Monday that they will hear from some of those who witnessed his blood-thirsty reign at a prison there.

Kefelegn Alemu Worku
Kefelegn Alemu Worku
October 8, 2013 (Denver Post) — The prosecutor in the trial of an Ethiopian accused of taking part in torture and murder during political upheaval in the African nation told jurors Monday that they will hear from some of those who witnessed his blood-thirsty reign at a prison there.
Kefelgn Alemu Worku is charged with coming into the United States illegally. Among the false statements he is accused of making in applying for naturalization is the answer “no” he gave to this question: “Have you ever persecuted (either directly or indirectly) any person because of race, religion, national origin … or political opinion?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Brenda Taylor said.
The stories of those who survived their time at “Higher 15,” the prison in Addis Ababa where he was a guard, will show that he lied, Taylor told jurors on Monday, the first day of Alemu Worku’s trial in U.S. District Court in Denver.
Matthew Golla, the defense attorney for Alemu Worku, also known as John Doe, said he doesn’t doubt that “wicked” things were done in the Ethiopian prison during the late 1970s, a period known as the Red Terror.
“The facts will show that this man had no part in that,” Golla, an assistant federal defender, told jurors. “I think the evidence will show their identifications are suspect.”
One witness will be Samuel Habteab Berhe, who immigrated from East Africa in 1995, Taylor said. When war broke out between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Habteab Berhe arranged for his father, who was Eritrean, and four younger siblings to go to Kenya. “But there was a problem,” Taylor said.
His father was ill — mentally and physically — and it was his status as an Eritrean that would make it possible for the family to immigrate to the United States, Taylor said. Habteab Berhe’s brothers and sisters met Alemu Worku, whom they knew as “Tufa,” and enlisted him to act as their father, Habteab Berhe Temanu, during the immigration process.
“His children made an impossible choice and sent their father back to Eritrea,” Taylor said.
He died in 2005.
The family and Alemu Worku came to the U.S. in 2004.
In return for testifying against Alemu Worku, prosecutors have promised that Habteab Berhe and his siblings will not be prosecuted for lying during the immigration process, Taylor said.
Golla said that the evidence will show that Habteab Berhe and his family members “engaged in deceit in order to come to the United States.”
Kiflu Ketema, 58, who spent 18 months at the prison, reported to federal authorities in 2012 that Alemu Worku was living in the U.S., after his brother told him he had seen the parking attendant at the Cozy Cafe, an Aurora restaurant.
When Ketema, who is expected to testify, arrived at the cafe, he spotted Alemu Worku, believed to be in his late 60s, outside the restaurant, he said in a recent interview. His appearance and even his voice had changed little.
When Ketema confronted him, the man denied being Alemu Worku. “He said, “No, maybe it could have been my brother,’ ” Ketema remembered.

Man arrested in Denver admits he is Kefelegn Alemu Worku, man wanted on torture charges

Posted: 07/11/2013
DENVER – An Ethiopian immigrant known as John Doe admits in a letter to a federal judge that he is Kefelegn Alemu Worku, a man who prosecutors think tortured and killed dozens of political prisoners in his home country in the 1970s.
Worku is scheduled to be tried in U.S. District Court in Denver on Aug. 12. Instead of going to trial, he wants to plead guilty at a hearing scheduled for Thursday.
Worku was living in the Denver area under the name Habteab Berhe Temanu and has been behind bars for almost 11 months on charges that he lied on immigration documents.
The Denver Post reported Thursday that Worku sent a letter to U.S. District Judge John Kane saying he lied to U.S. government officials and knows it was wrong.

Kefelegn Alemu Worku, Ethiopian Torture Suspect, Arrested In Denver, Colorado

DENVER — Federal agents arrested an Ethiopian immigrant suspected of torturing political prisoners decades ago in his home country, prosecutors said Friday.
Three former Ethiopian political prisoners identified the man as Kefelegn Alemu Worku (kah-FEH’-lun ah-LEE’-moo WER’-koo), saying he brutally mistreated them and others in the late 1970s, authorities said.
He is being held on immigration charges, and federal agents said they were investigating a report that he was involved in atrocities that occurred in Ethiopia following a military coup that plunged the nation into turmoil, marked by arrests, tortures and executions.
All three former prisoners, now U.S. citizens living in Denver, picked the suspect out of a photo lineup, the U.S. attorney’s office said. They told investigators that the man they identified as Worku was a guard at a prison in Ethiopia where they were held.
He was arrested Aug. 24. His attorney didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment. The arrest was first reported by KUSA-TV.
The suspect has been charged with unlawfully procuring citizenship or naturalization and aggravated identity theft. If convicted of both charges, he faces up to 12 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000.
The Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, D.C., said no one was available to comment.
Two of the former prisoners who identified the man as Worku said he beat them and subjected them to gruesome torture. The third said he witnessed the suspect abusing other prisoners. The men are identified only by initials in court documents.
Prosecutors said the suspect used several names. They say he entered the U.S. using a stolen identity and falsified paperwork and illegally achieved U.S. citizenship in 2010.
Officials won’t decide whether to attempt to deport the man until the immigration and identity theft charges are resolved, said Jeff Dorschner, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney in Denver.
It wasn’t immediately clear how or when the man left Ethiopia. Another Ethiopian immigrant in Denver told investigators the suspect lived in Kenya for several years before entering the U.S.
The suspect is about 68 years old and has been living in a Denver apartment under the name of Habteab Berhe Temanu, prosecutors said. They declined to say how he had been supporting himself.
Dorschner said no picture of the suspect will be released because investigators may still ask others to identify him from a photo lineup.
A court hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday.
The man was a regular at the Cozy Cafe in Denver, which serves Ethiopian food, said Girma Baye, the restaurant manager.
Baye said he knew nothing of the accusations against the man and that the arrest came as a shock to him and others.
“If I knew anything about his past, he would not be long in the United States,” Baye said.
Baye described him as “a happy, social person” and a “nice guy.”

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