Political turmoil could bolster former Glenwood man’s asylum case
DENVER, Colorado – An attorney is using international reports of increasing violence and political turmoil in Zimbabwe to bolster the legal argument to reopen Henry Akim Gama’s asylum case.Gama’s original motion to reopen was partially based on changed conditions in his home country of Zimbabwe. It said Gama is a member of the Movement for Democratic Change opposition party. That puts him in danger of being victim to “severe and active repression” of political opponents to Robert Mugabe’s regime, the motion says.Gama’s attorney, Mark Barr, filed a supplement to the motion Wednesday arguing that things have gotten worse in the wake of Zimbabwe’s presidential election.”While most independent observers agree that the MDC presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, won the election outright, the ruling ZANU-PF party has prevented the release of the election results and has engaged in an increasing pattern of violent intimidation and retaliation against MDC supporters,” the document states.Numerous articles from U.S. and international media and human rights advocates attached to the document describe increasing violence against MDC members since Zimbabwe’s March 29 presidential election. Mugabe, who’s been in power for 28 years, is accused of using violence and intimidation and fraud to hold onto power after apparently losing the election. He’s reportedly used police to raid MDC headquarters and tried to stamp out objective reporting on the election. A New York Times reporter wrote that he was jailed in Zimbabwe for four days for “committing journalism.”The article says a detective “described the offense to me as something despicable, almost hissing the words: ‘You’ve been gathering, processing and disseminating the news.'”Barr argues that the increasing troubles support the argument that Gama’s case should be reopened due to changed country conditions. Barr couldn’t be reached Monday.A 2000 letter from an MDC representative says Gama was instrumental in forming party structures near Victoria Falls. It says he’s targeted by ZANU-PF militia for his commitment to the MDC and “his safety is at risk were he to return.”Gama was well-liked and won many friends while living in Glenwood Springs and waiting tables at Rivers restaurant.Gama’s friends, his former employer and at least one Glenwood Springs City Council member are among those who believe Gama was unfairly written off by the government for accidentally missing a court date. They believe he’s a model citizen who has a strong case for asylum. Supporters say he came to the U.S. legally and always worked and paid taxes.According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Gama arrived in the U.S. in 2000 as an exchange visitor with permission to be here until 2002. He applied for immigration benefits in 2004 and was denied by a federal judge. Gama missed an August 2006 court date and a judge ordered him removed. ICE arrested Gama in September, and a judge denied the motion to reopen the case last fall.Gama’s attorney filed an appeal with the Board of Immigration. The board gave the case back to Immigration Judge David Cordova with instructions that he further explain why he denied the motion to reopen Gama’s case.Immigrants are supposed to apply for asylum within one year of entering the country or show good reason why they were delayed. Friends said Gama initially received incompetent legal assistance and didn’t know he was supposed to apply for asylum within a year of arriving.Contact Pete Fowler: email@example.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO
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