After escaping violence in Iraq, the asylum seeker was slapped with bogus charges, accusing him of being a murderer associated with Daesh. Then, Turkish phone records emerged and debunked the American theory, the New Yorker reports.
In July 2018, Omar Ameen, an Iraqi refugee who had fled to America, was accused of being a member of Daesh's hit squad. He was also indicted for being behind the murder of an Iraqi police officer before moving to the US. Recently, the Turkish government shared Ameen's phone records with his lawyer, proving that the accused was in Turkey at the time the police officer was murdered in Iraq.
The startling revelation suggests Ameen was framed by American state institutions, the New Yorker reported on Wednesday.
“....non political officials in the FBI, DHS, DOJ, and State Dept had been co-opted into a campaign to extradite an innocent man to almost certain death, in order to make a racist talking point appear to be slightly less of a fiction,” wrote Ben Taub - the reporter who followed the case - in a chain of tweets that may help Ameen prove his innocence.
“Career officials have spent the past four years executing troubling orders from above. How will they reconcile with this era? Relief that it is over? Horror at what they have done?” Taub asked.
The American magazine first published a piece on Ameen’s quest to prove his innocence in January last year. Shortly after the case was made public, a State Department attorney handed a letter to his defence team that led to a piece of evidence proving Ameen was wrongfully convicted.
The letter was sent by the Turkish government, saying that it had mobile phone records revealing Ameen was elsewhere when the murder took place in Iraq, and that Ankara was ready to collaborate if the US requested the evidence via proper bureaucratic channels.
The Justice Department however failed to disclose the letter’s existence to the court or to the defence, the New Yorker reported.
As Ameen learnt about the criminal charges filed against him by the US State Department in 2018, he heaved a sigh of relief, saying that it "will be easy" to prove that he was not in Iraq at the time of the crime and that he was completely innocent.
In 2012, Ameen first fled from his hometown Rawah, a village in Iraq’s Anbar Province. He contacted the United Nations for asylum, pleading that he was a victim of terrorism. His father was killed by Al Qaeda and his brothers were kidnapped by Shiite paramilitary groups. He was afraid of being killed for the crimes of his cousin, who was a member of Al Qaeda, the magazine said.
In his desert town, where the tribal justice system prevails, it's common for rivals to accuse each other of terrorism, Ameen told the magzine.
“When you want to get revenge, you get revenge on the entire extended family,'' he added.
Indeed, a large part of the evidence against him was collected with the help of a local militia that held a grudge against Ameen’s family.
Ameen resided in Turkey until 2014, when the UN agreed to resettle him in the US. In his time in Turkey as a refugee, he resided and worked in Mersin, a coastal city in the country's south where he was asked to mark his attendance with the police each Thursday. He wasn't allowed to leave the city without the police’s approval. The two occasions in which he left, he travelled to the US consulate in Istanbul. It all could be proven via his phone data.
Eight months after the Turkish government notified the State Department about Ameen's phone records, and eleven months after one of his federal defenders, Rachelle Barbour, found out about it, the records from Turkey have finally arrived.
Ameen’s lawyers are now preparing to submit translations and a formal analysis of the Turkish documents.