The American Civil Liberties Union has asked a federal judge to order the immediate release of Ansly Damus, a Haitian immigrant who has been jailed in Geauga County for nearly two years as the government continues to appeal his asylum award.

Damus was an ethics teacher in Haiti and in one of his seminars used local government official Benjamin Ocenjac as an example of someone who used bandits to terrorize the population. “La Meezorequin” (“the Shark Bones Army”), an armed gang loyal to Ocenjac, beat Damus, set his motorcycle on fire and threatened his life, according to court documents.

About ten days later, Damus fled first to Brazil, and then to the United States, where he immediately presented himself for asylum at the California border in October 2016.

He has been held since then by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the Geauga County Safety Center in Chardon. He has twice been granted asylum by a U.S. Immigration Court judge in Cleveland, finding his fear of persuction credible and determining that he had not firmly resettled in Brazil, which might have nullified an asylum claim. But the government has denied his release as it appeals those rulings. Continue reading

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