FBI probes ICE torture case

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating allegations that several Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deportation agents assaulted and tortured Nigerian detainee Daso Abibo at the ICE office in Oklahoma City on June 14, 2004. FBI spokesperson Gary Johnson confirmed that the agency is investigating the case but declined to discuss further details. According to Associated Press, the regional ICE office in Dallas has issued a written statement saying the alleged assault is being investigated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Inspector General.

Abibo is married to a US citizen but was ordered deported after an asylum plea failed. ICE tried to deport him on May 19, 2004, but the Nigerian consulate refused to issue travel documents. Back at the ICE office in Oklahoma City on June 14, Abibo was attacked after he told an officer he would not sign a deportation-related document or place his fingerprint on it without first consulting his attorney. “In a flash, five, maybe six officers attacked me,” Abibo wrote in a letter from Oklahoma County Jail following the assault. “My legs were in shackles,” he stated. “One officer grabbed my neck from the back with his hand pressing it. Another officer was holding tight on my ears, twisting and pulling hard on them as if to pull them off my head… One officer was twisting my left hand, while another was busy knocking on my Achilles heel’s tendon. It was a nightmare. It was so painful, I asked them to shoot me…dead so they could get what they want.”

Abibo’s account was backed up by Deanna Burdine, a former ICE deportation assistant who says she walked in on the assault. Burdine said the attack was so severe that she feared the officers had killed Abibo, who had not been resisting anything except signing the document. Abibo was deported to Nigeria in July 2004. Burdine was fired in April 2005, after reporting the attack on Abibo to the DHS Office of Professional Responsibility. Burdine says her dismissal was retaliation for filing the complaint. Burdine also described the attack in letters to the FBI and the Oklahoma City federal prosecutor’s office. She is seeking her job back through arbitration.

On Apr. 20, 2005, Amnesty International USA refugee advocate Susan Benesch sent a letter to Dan Sutherland, director of the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, urging him to investigate the attack, as well as what she called “a pattern and practice of abuse on the part of ICE officers in Oklahoma City,” and Burdine’s firing. “According to current and former DHS employees in Oklahoma City, ICE officers routinely abuse detainees there,” Benesch wrote. Regional ICE spokesperson Carl Rusnok denied the charge. “There is no abuse of detainees by an ICE officers,” he said. (AP, Aug. 16; Benesch Letter, April 20, 2005)

From Immigration News Briefs, Aug. 27

This case should be seen as part of the general ongoing torture scandal.