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Saturday, Nov. 12, 2005

Afghan detainee qualifies for refugee status: court


Staff writer

The Tokyo District Court on Friday revoked a Justice Ministry decision to deny a well-known Afghan man refugee status.

Ali Jane's case has received wide media attention because of his autobiography, "Kaasan Boku-wa Ikitemasu" ("Mother I'm Alive"), which tells of his hardships in Afghanistan, where he lived in fear of persecution from the Taliban, and problems after fleeing to Japan.

Presiding Judge Hiroyuki Kanno ruled Friday that the Justice Ministry's denial of Jane's request for asylum was illegal.

Kanno said the 23-year-old Jane was a member of an "anti-Taliban family" and had fled to Japan from Afghanistan because he feared persecution, "and that makes him a refugee," Kanno said.

Jane, his lawyer and supporters expressed joy at the verdict.

"By international standards, this ruling (recognizing Jane as a refugee) is a matter of course," said Jane's lawyer, Koichi Kodama, whose eyes were red from crying. "However, it is a thoughtful ruling in the sense that it recognized Jane's fear of persecution even though he personally has not been persecuted."

The Afghan filed the lawsuit in December 2001 after the Justice Ministry denied him refugee status and issued a deportation order.

The Taliban persecuted ethnic Hazaras like Jane's family. And they were further marginalized as members of the Shiite minority.

According to Jane, his father was taken away by the Taliban militia after one of Jane's brothers joined an anti-Taliban group. He has not been heard from since.

Believing that Jane, who was 18 at the time, was going to be picked up next, he claimed that his mother told him "to flee to Japan, a country of peace."

"I am here because of my mother," Jane told reporters. "Now, I can finally live safely in Japan."

Jane arrived here in August 2001 on a forged passport and was detained by immigration officials.

He applied for asylum immediately, but the Justice Ministry's Immigration Bureau turned him down one month later.

During his long period of detention in Higashi-Nihon Immigration Center in Ushiku, Ibaraki Prefecture, Jane said he tried to commit suicide twice, first by stabbing himself with scissors and then by trying to hang himself with a pair of pants.

"Everyday was torture during detention," Jane said. "I had no idea how long the detention would last or when I would be deported (to Afghanistan). Those days of stress and anxiety got to me."

Since his release from detention in 2002, the Afghan has been taking junior high-school classes at night in Tokyo's Sumida Ward.

"If possible, I would like to become a doctor in the future," he said. "In Afghanistan, I saw my friends die in front of my eyes. I want to be able to do something to help people."

Jane's supporters are circulating a petition to ask the Justice Ministry not to appeal the ruling.



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