BATAVIA, N.Y. (AP) — Three Afghan soldiers detained since abandoning a Massachusetts training exercise to avoid returning to Afghanistan are hoping financial help from supporters will allow them to go free as they challenge deportation and pursue asylum.
After a U.S. immigration judge set bond at $25,000 for each, their attorney Wednesday said he would reach out to mosques and others to raise the money.
"They're not doing too well," attorney Matthew Borowski said outside the courtroom at the federal detention center where the military officers have been held for a month. "They miss their families," Borowski said, and are worried about their futures.
Over the government's objection, Judge Steven Connelly set what he called a significant bond for Capt. Noorullah Aminyar and Capt. Mohammed Nasir Askarzada, citing their lack of ties to the United States. Connelly set bond in the same amount for Maj. Jan Mohammad Arash earlier this month but Arash has remained in custody, unable to post it.
"It's $75,000 now to get all three out," Borowski said.
The soldiers had been participating in a U.S. Central Command Regional Cooperation training exercise at Joint Base Cape Cod in September when they took a taxi to Niagara Falls and walked across the Rainbow Bridge into Canada to ask for refugee status.
Askarzada has an uncle in Montreal and a cousin in Toronto, Borowski said.
After being denied entry, the three were returned to the United States, where they face deportation for allegedly overstaying their visas.
In opposing bond, prosecutor Marvin Muller argued the soldiers, while not dangerous, could flee. He cited Aminyar's alleged statement to agents that the group had taken a taxi rather than a bus to avoid police.
"He wanted to get to the Canadian border. He figured a taxi would be the safest way to do it," Borowski said later. "He didn't hurt anyone or violate any law by taking a taxi."
The soldiers have said they were seeking protection against Taliban death threats at home but now also fear reprisals from Afghanistan authorities if they are made to return. All have said they will apply for asylum in the United States if found removable by the court at trial. They also will seek protection under the United Nations convention against torture, Borowski said.
The three will be tried separately in December and early January.
If released from custody before then, Aminyar could stay with a cousin in California who has offered to take him in, Borowski told the judge. Apartments in Buffalo and Virginia are also available to the men, he said.