When immigration officials denied asylum to Noorullah Aminyar, his lawyer predicted almost certain torture and death upon the Afghan solider’s return home.
“The blood will be on the hands of the U.S. government,” Buffalo attorney Matthew Borowski said at the time.
A year later, Aminyar remains at the Federal Detention Center in Batavia, still fighting his deportation.
Borowski says the Taliban has a new target.
The resurgent Afghan group retaliated earlier this month, killing Aminyar’s brother and leaving a letter threatening the rest of his family, the lawyer said.
“The Taliban hasn’t forgotten him,” he said of the 32-year old Afghan captain. “They left a threatening note with the dead body. Now, the whole family is terrified.”
Borowski said he learned of the death of Aminayr’s brother, Sefatullah, in an email from a family member. He also has a copy of the letter attached to Sefatullah’s dead body and hopes to have it translated next week.
“He’s devastated,” Borowoski said of Aminyar. “He feels powerless.”
The news of Aminyar’s loss is the latest chapter in a story that generated headlines across the world when Aminyar and two other Afghan soldiers, one a major, the other also a captain, left their training facility on Cape Cod, Mass. and set out for Canada.
With the help of a cab, they made their way to the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls. That is where they soon found themselves under arrest. All three soldiers said that their fear of the Taliban prompted them to run.
Two years later, two of the three soldiers are free, granted amnesty, one here, the other in Canada.
Aminyar, meanwhile, remains in prison at Batavia, still facing deportation back to Afghanistan.
Officials at Immigration and Customs Enforcement said they could not comment on the case against Aminyar or the report about his brother’s murder.
Denied amnesty by a local immigration judge and an appeals panel, Aminyar took his case to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, where it is pending. Borowski is hoping the death of Aminyar’s brother will help persuade the appeals court to overturn those earlier decisions denying amnesty.
“We now have proof that it’s individualized,” he said of the threat facing his client.
Borowski said the government has argued in the past that Aminyar’s involvement in the military does not automatically make him a target of persecution. He thinks the killing of Aminyar’s brother and the letter now prove he is a target.
From the start, Borowski has questioned the immigration courts’ decision to deny Aminyar amnesty and pointed to the same appeals panel ruling in favor of asylum for Maj. Jan Arash, 50, one of Aminyar’s fellow soldiers. Arash is now living in the Buffalo area.
The other solider, Capt. Mohammad Nasir Askarzada, 30, who has family in Canada, was ruled eligible for asylum there and was transferred to Canada in December of 2014, just three months after their arrests.
Borowski said Aminyar, like Arash, is a soldier who will forever be regarded as a member of the military and, for that reason, will always be at risk of persecution by the Taliban. He also remains concerned that the Afghan military may take action against Aminyar because of his decision to flee the training in Cape Cod and seek asylum here.
Two years after Aminyar’s arrest, Borowski is beginning to think his client’s asylum denial is rooted in the Taliban’s resurgence. He thinks U.S. officials are afraid amnesty for Aminyar would be an acknowledgement that the Taliban is again a serious threat and on the offensive.
“They don’t want to admit Afghanistan is going to the dogs,” Borowski said of the government.
From the time of his arrest, Aminyar has talked publicly about his fears of the Taliban. He told a Buffalo News reporter in October of 2014 that a horrifying image repeatedly entered his head.
In it, he said at the time, Taliban soldiers come to his village, Khwogani, find his family home and murder him in front of his wife, parents and five children.
“This happens in Afghanistan. There have been a lot of soldiers who were killed in their homes, in front of their wife and children. If they catch them alive, the Taliban cuts off their heads in front of their families,” he told The News. “When we are home, we are on our own. We get no protection. … This happened to eight of my friends … soldiers.”
Aminyar, who speaks better English than either of his fellow soldiers, said his decision to leave the training on Cape Cod on Sept. 20 of 2014 also followed a disturbing phone call with his father in Afghanistan.
“My father told me that, on September 14, Taliban came to my home, searching my home, saying ‘Where is Noorullah? Where is Noorullah?’ ” Aminyar recounted.
“My father said, ‘They come to kill you. You are not safe in Afghanistan. Don’t come back to Afghanistan.’ ”