BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — An immigration judge denied asylum Friday for an Afghan military officer who sneaked away from a U.S. training exercise in Massachusetts to avoid returning to Afghanistan, where he said he had been threatened by the Taliban.
The judge ruled that Maj. Jan Arash did not qualify for certain protections because the Taliban is not a government, his lawyer said, nor had he proven that he would be persecuted, rather than legally prosecuted, by the Afghan government.
"If he gets deported and hung for desertion, that's OK under the law," attorney Matthew Borowski said.
"We have no choice but to appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals," the attorney said. The process could take several months.
In the meantime, Arash will continue to be held at the Buffalo Federal Detention Center, where the asylum case was heard.
Arash is one of three Afghan military officers who were detained in September after being denied entry into Canada, where they had planned to seek refugee status.
One of the soldiers, Capt. Mohammad Nasir Askarzada, was allowed into Canada in December after proving he had relatives there.
The other, Capt. Noorullah Aminyar, is seeking asylum in the United States. His case is pending before the same judge that denied Arash's claim.
"The cases are essentially the same," Borowski said. Friday's ruling "doesn't bode well for him."
Borowski, who has been representing the soldiers pro bono, said Arash had hoped to be released on parole so that he could work to send money to his wife and children, who are suffering without Arash's income.
"His family is starving in Afghanistan," Borowski said. "They don't have firewood and they don't have food, or not enough."
The three soldiers took a cab more than 500 miles from Massachusetts to the Canadian border in Niagara Falls while in the United States for a training exercise at Joint Base Cape Cod. In interviews with The Associated Press shortly after they were detained, they described being targeted by the Taliban because of their work with U.S. soldiers.