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Trial dates set for two Afghan soldiers

A federal immigration judge on Wednesday set January trial dates for two captains from the Afghanistan army who abandoned a military training conference in Massachusetts last month and are seeking asylum in the United States.

During an afternoon hearing at the Buffalo Federal Detention Center in Batavia, Immigration Judge Steven J. Connelly set a Jan. 6 trial date for Capt. Mohammad Nasir Askarzada, 28, and a Jan. 8 trial date for Capt. Noorullah Aminyar, 30.

The judge also said the two men can be released on $25,000 bond while they await their trials. Their attorney, Matthew Borowski, said he is trying to help them raise the money through donations.

The two Afghan soldiers and a colleague, Major Jan Mohammad Arash, 48, have been in custody since Sept. 22 at the Batavia facility. Arash’s trial date was previously set for Dec. 9. He, too, is being held in lieu of $25,000 bond.

The three soldiers have told The Buffalo News and other media that they are terrified that if they are sent back to Afghanistan, terrorists from the Taliban will murder them.

Terrorists in their homeland despise them and have threatened to kill them in their homes because they have fought side by side with American soldiers in Afghanistan, Aminyar said in an interview.

The federal government was represented on Wednesday by Marvin J. Muller III, an assistant chief counsel for U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement. Muller said the government opposes a bail release for the three Afghan soldiers because it fears they will flee the area and fail to return for future court proceedings.

ICE agents apprehended the three men at the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls after they fled from a U.S.-sponsored military training program in Cape Cod, Mass. The men hired a taxi cab to drive them to Niagara Falls, in hopes they could go to Canada to seek asylum.

According to their attorney, the three men are seeking protection for them and their families in America, but the U.S. government wants to deport them.

Borowski, who is representing the men without pay, said the men are almost penniless and will have a hard time raising $25,000 each for bail. He said he has started a web site called afghansoldiers.com to seek donations for the bail.

“One generous individual has pledged $10,000,” Borowski said. “We’ll do everything we can to try to raise the $75,000, but it is going to be difficult.”

email: dherbeck@buffnews.com