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Cablegate: Background On Samel Sami Khouzam Extradition

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHEG #1816/01 1650408
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 140408Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5665
INFO RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS CAIRO 001816

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

NSC FOR WATERS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM KIRF PGOV PREL EG
SUBJECT: BACKGROUND ON SAMEL SAMI KHOUZAM EXTRADITION

REF: a) 2006 Cairo 1227 b) 2006 State 42818

Sensitive but unclassified. Please protect accordingly.

1. (SBU) Recent press reports have focused on the possible
extradition of Egyptian citizen Sameh Sami Khouzam from the United
States to Egypt; some of these reports have been inaccurate. The
purpose of this cable is to describe the history of the case itself.
Khouzam is an Egyptian citizen who fled to the United States
seeking asylum in 1998 after being accused of the murder of Ms.
Hekmat Zaki Mohamed Yousef on February 10, 1998. He was
subsequently convicted in absentia. He is fighting this
deportation.

2. (U) On February 27, 1998, the GOE requested the extradition of
Khouzam who was in INS custody in New York fighting deportation
proceedings.

In the deportation hearing he gave a sworn statement on March 5,
1998. After reviewing all the evidence in the case, including
Khouzam's sworn statement, an INS judge denied his petition for
removal, holding that substantial evidence existed implicating him
in a "serious nonpolitical crime" and ordered his repatriation to
Egypt. The immigration judge also rejected Khouzam's claim that he
was framed. In January 1999 the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA)
denied his appeal. A third appeal was dismissed by the BIA in March
2002.

3. (U) In 2000, when the proceedings described in paragraph 2 were
taking place, the US adopted Article Three of the United Nations
Convention Against Torture (CAT). Article Three prohibits the
deportation of any individual to a state where there are substantial
grounds to believe he would be subject to torture. After the United
States adopted the CAT, Khouzam filed a second petition claiming
that his deportation was improper under CAT. An immigration judge
granted this second petition, holding that it was more likely than
not that Khouzam would be tortured. The INS appealed this decision
to the Board of Immigration Appeals but their appeal was denied in
July 2000. The INS then moved the Board to reconsider its decision.
On May 7, 2002, the Board reconsidered and vacated its July earlier
decision and ordered that Khouzam be removed from the United States.
The defense subsequently appealed the denial of both petitions to
the Second Circuit of the Federal Court of Appeals (Second Circuit)

4. (U) The Second Circuit in Khouzam v. Ashcroft, 361 F.3d 161 (2nd
Cir. 2004), upheld the immigration judge's holding in the first
petition concluding that the immigration judge properly found that
there were serious reasons to believe that Khouzam murdered Zaki
Youssef (see para six for the full statement and a description of
the Egyptian police evidence). The Court also rejected the claim
that he was framed. However, the Second Circuit did grant Khouzam's
request with respect to the second petition. It vacated BIA's May
2002 decision vacating its July 2000 decision which granted Khouzam
relief under Article Three of the CAT.

5. (SBU) Subsequently, the Department of State decided, pursuant to
8CFR 208.18 and 208.17, to seek adequate assurances from the GOE
that Khouzam would not be tortured. With that, and with DHS's
agreement, they could override BIA's decision. The State Department
did receive what it considered to be adequate assurances and DHS
concurred. Consequently BIA's decision to defer removal was
rendered invalid and Khouzam was arrested. This is where the case
now stands.

6. (U) Begin statement of Second Circuit Court:

The immigration judge relied on documents describing an Egyptian
police investigation into the death of one Zaki Mohammed Youssef.
These documents, that included Egyptian police reports and a warrant
for Khouzam's arrest, indicate Khouzam's fingerprints were found at
the crime and he was seen with an injured hand and a bloody shirt on
the night of the murder. Further, they relate that the police
later recovered the bloody shirt, and the blood on it matched the
victim's blood type. They also suggest a possible motive for the
killing. In addition to this documentary evidence, the immigration
judge noted that Khouzam had arrived in the United States one day
after the alleged murder with an injured hand. When asked about his
injury he told the INS that a woman had attacked him with a vase,
they had fought, she had fallen, and he had run. The judge observed
that Khouzam's injured hand and his story are consistent with his
having committed the murder.

Khouzam maintains that none of the documents received from Egypt are
reliable because he was framed by the Egyptian police. He offered
the testimony of two expert witnesses, one of whom pointed to
irregularities in the police reports. The other expert described
persecution of the Coptic Christians in Egypt and opined that a
number of Copts have been wrongfully accused of crimes. Khouzam
also offered a letter from a friend in Egypt stating that the
alleged victim had not been killed, and enclosing photographs to
prove that she was alive. The photographs however, were of an
unrecognizable veiled woman.

Petitioner also declares that the U.S. government passed information
from his confidential asylum application to the Egyptian government.
This assertion does not detract from the evidence that Khouzam
allegedly committed a murder, which, if credited, would bar him from
asylum and withholding. While we requested further briefing from
the parties on this matter because of its potential effect on his
CAT claim, our decision on that claim renders it irrelevant.

While petitioner's evidence might cast a reasonable doubt on his
guilt, it does not compel a finding that he was framed. Absent such
a finding, we agree with the immigration judge that there were
serious reasons to believe that Khouzam committed the murder. We
therefore deny Khouzam's petition for review of the BIA's asylum and
withholding decision.
End statement.

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