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Two Iraqis Can Seek U.S. Asylum

November 18, 1997

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ An immigration judge ruled Monday that two Iraqi members of CIA-backed resistance groups aren’t threats to U.S. security and may seek political asylum.

The men _ a journalist and former soldier _ were among thousands of Iraqis brought to this country by the United States after Saddam Hussein crushed opposition forces in northern Iraq last year.

The refugees were taken to California, where all but a handful were granted political asylum. The two men who won Monday’s ruling were labeled ``national security risks″ and denied asylum along with six others still awaiting their fates.

U.S. officials refused to reveal their evidence against the two men during a private hearing before Judge D.D. Sitgraves.

The men say U.S. authorities consider them double-agents for Hussein, based on testimony by members of opposing factions within the splintered Iraqi resistance.

``Basically, these two men have been in detention since last October for no good reason,″ said attorney Daniel Levy, one of the lawyers for the Iraqis.

The two men were identified as Hashim Hawlery, a journalist whose wife and children now live in Glendale, Calif., and Mohammed Qaisar, an Iraqi army deserter whose wife and children now live in Lincoln, Neb. Their family members had earlier been granted asylum, attorney Niels W. Frenzen said.

Sitgraves’ ruling allows the men, who said they believed they would be tortured and executed if deported to Iraq, to stay in the United States and apply for asylum.

Sitgraves said the INS didn’t present enough evidence supporting its claim that the two men were security risks.

Sitgraves did not rule on whether the six other Iraqis should be deported.

The Iraqis were members of either the Iraqi National Congress or Iraqi National Accord, London-based groups whose members mainly were Shiites and Kurds opposed to Hussein’s government.

These groups, operating in northern Iraq’s No-Fly Zone, were backed by the CIA as part of a reported $20 million effort by the U.S. government to overthrow or weaken Hussein after the 1991 Gulf War.

After Hussein’s troops swept through northern Iraq last year, thousands of opposition members and their families were evacuated from Iraq on U.S. military transport planes.

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