SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Advocates and attorneys for Omar Ameen were calling for his release from ICE custody, 1,000 days after he was detained and 20 days after a federal judge ordered him to be released from Sacramento County Jail.
Ameen was an Iraq refugee and Uber driver living in the Sacramento suburb of Arden-Arcade when he was arrested at his apartment in 2018. He was accused of being an ISIS commander and wanted for the 2014 murder of a police officer in his hometown of Rawah, Iraq during an ISIS invasion, the Department of Justice said.
On April 21, a federal judge said he couldn't have done this. Rachelle Barbour, an attorney representing Ameen, said her team “obliterated” the US government’s extradition case against Ameen and accusations of terrorism and murder.
“What that means is their case was completely based on false witnesses,” Barbour said at a Tuesday press conference. “These were false witness that claimed what turned out to be pretty easily disprovable.”
However, despite the judge’s order to release him, Ameen is still being held at an ICE facility in Bakersfield, according to his lawyers, and awaiting an immigration hearing on Thursday for the same accusations he was cleared of. A separate immigration case was filed against him in 2018 when he was arrested.
According to Barbour, Ameen was 600 miles away from the incident and living in Turkey when the murder happened.
In a statement from Ameen read by Basim Elkarra, executive director of CAIR in Central California, he said that he never got to say goodbye to his wife and children when he was arrested nearly three years ago. He thought that the arrest was a mistake and that he’d be back the same day, only to spend the next two years and eight months in Sacramento County Jail.
When the judge ordered him to be released, he thought he’d be going home that very day, but it didn’t happen.
“Both I and my family thought I’d get to go home that day. I’m so grateful to the judge for listening to all the evidence and I thank God that in this country I have the right to defend myself and be found innocent,” Ameen said in the statement. “I love America and want to enjoy living here for the rest of my life with my wife and children. It saddens me that I still have to fight for my freedom again.”
Siobhan Waldron, immigration attorney for Ameen, joined the call for Ameen’s release. She noted that ICE is continuing to allege that Ameen is a threat to public safety and national security without providing evidence or information as to why.
“Their assertion is ludicrous,” Waldron said. “The facts are clear. We don’t know why they’re doing this and we demand answers,” Waldron said at the Tuesday press conference.
In light of the court decision, she filed a release request with ICE to review Ameen’s case, hoping that further review might see his release. Waldron said, if that doesn’t happen, they’ll keep fighting for Ameen in both federal and immigration courts.
Waldron, Elkarra, and Barbour were joined by a number of advocates ranging from the ACLU of Northern California to Sacramento City Councilmember Katie Valenzuela. All of them hoped to see Ameen released in time to spend the rest of Ramadan with his wife and four kids.
"We still do not understand why this injustice is continuing," Ameen's wife Khanssa said in a statement read at the press conference. "Every day the kids and I hope he will finally be released, return home, and break his fast with us over a normal family meal once again. But over two weeks have gone by now and he’s still a prisoner. Please end our agony and all the injustices of the past three years."