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Warrant issued for 'tortured' US Muslim seeking asylum in Sweden

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Warrant issued for 'tortured' US Muslim seeking asylum in Sweden
08:13 CEST+02:00
The United States has issued an arrest warrant for an American Muslim seeking political asylum in Sweden after he publicly claimed he was imprisoned and tortured at the behest the American FBI.

According to recently filed court documents, Yonas Fikre, a 33-year-old Muslim who is a naturalized US citizen, is suspected of being involved in wire transfers of large sums of money designed to skirt US reporting requirements, US news website msnbc.com reports.

Fikre is currently in Sweden awaiting a decision on his application filed for political asylum after having been imprisoned in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where he claims he was tortured for 106 days at the request of American government agents.

The US government indictment accuses Fikre, his brother, and another man of wanting to "conceal from the United States their connection to the money transfers" totaling around $75,000.

The US believes that Fikre deliberately "structured" a series of wire transfers by sending amounts less than $10,000 in order to avoid having to report the transfers to the federal government.

Fikre's US-based attorney rejected the charges against his client, however.

"Frankly, I think its retaliation and retribution," he told msnbc.com, adding that Firke had previously been questioned about the transfers by FBI agents in April 2010.

In mid-April. Fikre went public with allegations that he suffered illegal torture and imprisonment in the UAE at the behest of the FBI.

"He told me to lie down on the floor and he started beating the soles of my feet," he said in a video clip published on the YouTube channel of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), an advocacy group for American Muslims which has supported Fikre throughout his ordeal.

He claims to have been tortured for 106 days, in what he described to the AP news agency as the most isolating experience of his life.

In addition to having his bare feet beaten, Fikre claims to have been kicked and punched and sprayed with a fire hose.

"It wasn't actual FBI agents who tortured him, they were private contractors," his Swedish lawyer Hand Bredberg told The Local at the time Fikre went public, adding that the prison where his client was held was "a few hundred metres" from the US embassy.

After being released from his captors in September, Fikre came to Sweden because some distant relatives from Eritrea live here.

Since then, Fikre has been in Sweden while his asylum application has been processed, something Bredberg said has taken longer than usual.

TT/AFP/The Local

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