WSBTV.com -- An Ethiopian immigrant accused of torturing and killing dissidents in a military dictatorship in his native country during the 1970s has been ordered deported from the United States, but will remain here while he appeals the decision, the government said Friday.
Kelbessa Negewo, 54, was arrested in January in an Atlanta suburb and has remained in federal custody since then.
Following a hearing this week, an immigration judge on Tuesday ordered Negewo deported to Ethiopia. However, because he is appealing the decision, the deportation is on hold until the matter is resolved, said Sue Brown, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Negewo faces life in prison in his former homeland, where in 2002 he was convicted in absentia of human rights violations including torture and 13 killings. He was also the target of a civil case in the early 1990s.
Negewo fled to the United States in 1988 and eventually became a U.S. citizen. He renounced his citizenship last October after the government moved to strip him of it, and that opened the door for the arrest and deportation proceedings.
The U.S. government has said no federal charges are planned against him.
Officials allege that during the 1970s, Negewo was part of a military dictatorship that ruled Ethiopia. They say that in his role as chairman of a special government unit, he was responsible for having numerous civilians -- mostly students -- incarcerated, tortured and executed by firing squad.
Homeland security officials say Negewo lied about his human rights violations to obtain U.S. citizenship.
Negewo's wife told The Associated Press following her husband's arrest in January that she doesn't believe he killed anyone.