ICE reportedly relied on a 'politically motivated' request from the Kremlin to try to deport a Russian asylum seeker legally staying in the US

  • ICE is attempting to deport a Russian national, legally in the US awaiting a decision on his asylum application, at the "politically motivated" request of the Russian government, Politico reported Thursday.
  • According to Politico, ICE arrested Gregory Duralev after Russia asked Interpol to issue a "Red Notice," a request to law enforcement agencies around the world to arrest someone pending their formal extradition.
  • But autocratic governments like Russia have a well-documented history of using Red Notices to target political opponents, and the Justice Department says they aren't a sufficient basis on which to arrest suspects.
  • Still, legal experts told Politico that Duralev's case is part of a disturbing trend of US law enforcement using the notices to deport immigrants, with one saying it risked making the US "a willing participant in Russia’s persecution of dissidents."
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When US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement arrested a Russian national seeking asylum in America, they relied on an incomplete, inaccurate, and what experts called a "politically motivated" request from Russian authorities, Politico reported Thursday.

According to Politico, ICE officers arrested Gregory Duralev in Los Angeles in September 2018 on charges of overstaying his visa, even though he's legally allowed to stay in the country while awaiting a decision on his asylum application and has no criminal record in either the US or Russia. He was detained for 18 months, at times in solitary confinement.

The arrest reportedly stemmed from what's called a "Red Notice." When authorities believe a criminal suspect has fled to another country, they can ask Interpol — a sort of clearinghouse for information shared between authorities internationally — to issue a Red Notice, which the agency describes as "a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action."

Those requests typically contain information to help local authorities identify the suspect as well as details about the crimes they're wanted for.

But the Red Notice issued for Duralev raised several red flags.

For one, it was missing basic information and littered with errors — for example, accusing Duralev of embezzling 73 million rubles, which it falsely said amounted to $20 million (it's actually less than $1 million) — according to Politico.

But more worrying was the fact that it came from Russia, with which the US has no extradition treaty due to widespread corruption within its justice system.

Russia abuses Red Notices to target dissidents, experts say

Duralev has been critical of corruption in Russia. He had written a thesis on the subject while acquiring his second master's degree, in economics, and uploaded it online.

And along with other authoritarian governments, Russia has a well-documented history of abusing Red Notices by pressuring Interpol to issue ones that are clearly targeted at political dissents — and Interpol has a history of agreeing to those requests.

That abuse is extensive enough that Congress has attempted to reform how Interpol issues Red Notices, and the Department of Justice has said it "does not consider a Red Notice alone to be a sufficient basis for the arrest of a subject because it does not meet the requirements for arrest under the 4th Amendment to the Constitution."

Nevertheless, immigration judge Kevin Riley deemed Duralev a flight risk and denied his bond based on the fraud allegations and erroneous currency conversion described by Russian authorities in their Red Notice, according to Politico.

Amid the Trump administration's anti-immigration policies, aggressive deportation push, and reluctance to grant asylum, legal experts told Politico that they worried the notices could be used to "manufacture immigration violations," with one public defender wondering: "At what point does the US become a willing participant in Russia's persecution of dissidents?"

Bill Browder, an American businessman who was a major foreign investor in Russia until he lost favor with the Kremlin and began speaking out about corruption in the country — at which point Russia targeted him with multiple Red Notices — told Politico that by relying on the notices, the US could end up deporting political dissidents back to autocratic countries from which it intentionally doesn't honor extradition requests.

Browder's case also evokes another troubling aspect of US authorities' willingness to honor Russian Red Notices: Trump's warm relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Browder lobbied Congress to pass a law imposing sanctions on Russians who commit human rights abuses and has become a frequent target of Putin since its passage in 2012. When asked by reporters at a 2018 summit in Helsinki, Finland, whether he would extradite intelligence officers allegedly involved in hacking Democratic organizations during the 2016 election, Putin pivoted and accused US intelligence officers of helping Browder funnel money to Hillary Clinton's campaign (a claim that has repeatedly been debunked).

Trump initially called it an "incredible offer," but the White House quickly walked back his comments.

Trump has on occasion made policy decisions that have directly benefited Russia, repeatedly praised Putin personally, and been reluctant to condemn the country's actions. Most recently, Trump has yet to personally condemn Russia's poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Read the full report at Politico»

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