US & World

Bangladeshi Man Faces Imminent Deportation

A former Bangladeshi diplomat living in Los Angeles may be deported as early as Thursday night, now that he has exhausted his legal appeals. The man faces execution in Bangladesh for his part in a 1975 coup that resulted in the assassination of the country's first president. He says he played a minor role in the coup.

Frank Stoltze: Earlier this year, Mohuiddin Ahmed spoke with KPCC from the U.S. government's immigration detention center on Terminal Island in San Pedro. Sixty-one-year-old Ahmed said he was wrongly convicted in the 1975 coup that led to the assassination of the country's first president, Sheikh Mujib Rahman.

Mohiuddin Ahmed: I had nothing to do with the killing of Sheikh. I was given a responsibility to create a roadblock in one of the main streets in Dhaka. I had no idea that he was shot.

Stoltze: Ahmed insists his conviction in absentia 10 years ago, and his subsequent death sentence, were politically motivated. The widow of the assassinated president was in power at the time.

But the government of Bangladesh insists Ahmed got a fair trial. It wants him returned, though it won't guarantee him an appeal. The U.S. government has denied Ahmed political asylum. A U.S. immigration judge ruled he was convicted by a legitimate court, and classified him as a terrorist because he was involved in an assassination. Joseph Sandoval is Ahmed's attorney.

Joseph Sandoval: It has been an uphill battle with the U.S. government from the outset in this case, and we have not yet received any favorable action from the State Department or the Department of Homeland Security.

Stoltze: Sandoval said Ahmed's wife, son and daughter have made a last ditch appeal to Canada to grant him political asylum, and that they are in discussions with the office of that country's prime minister. But the U.S. government would have to agree with that arrangement.

The family is getting help from Congressman Jim McDermott, a Democrat from Washington State. McDermott says he's not sure Ahmed is innocent. But he wonders about his guilt.

Congressman Jim McDermott: If you have a case tried in absentia, where witnesses are called back to testify 25 years later, that in itself raises questions in my mind as to what people remember.

Stoltze: McDermott has introduced a bill in Congress that would grant Ahmed a stay of deportation. He knows it's an uphill battle.

McDermott: You have in the Department of Homeland Security a mentality that says ship out as many people as you can as quick as you can.

Stoltze: Ahmed's attorney wonders whether the U.S. government's reluctance to allow Ahmed asylum in a third country is a nod to Bangladesh.

Sandoval: Certainly, the Department of State has an interest in maintaining relationships, and good relationships with Bangladesh.

Stoltze: Many of the estimated 50,000 Bangladeshis in Southern California have been paying close attention to the Ahmed case.

After all, it involves the killing of the country's first president, a revered figure in Bangladesh. Many want to see Ahmed deported. Ishtiac Chisty concedes he doesn't know the details of Ahmed's case, but he says the man should be sent back to face justice.

Ishtiac Chisty: It is like putting our history in perspective and burying the hatchet, so to speak. Righting all the wrongs that were done at that time.

Stoltze: Time is running out for Mohiuddin Ahmed. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied his last appeal a week ago. That means U.S. immigration authorities could deport him any day now. His family has asked to be given 24 hours notice, so they can have one last visit before he boards a plane back to Bangladesh.