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court filings, “had sharp objects inserted in my penis and anus. I had a gun put to my head and in my mouth. They pulled the trigger of the gun to frighten me. I had my hand broken, two fractured knees, internal bleeding where my bladder was injured.” In the summer of 1995 he was arrested again for participating in a demonstration against President Sani Abacha. He was beaten until he gave up family addresses. He spent a month recovering from the beatings, he claims, but continued his work helping to set up temporary radio transmission sites to broadcast anti-military propaganda. In early 1996, tipped off by a friend with access to military intelligence that his movements were being monitored and that his family home had been searched, Balogun fled the country. His journey would take him to Benin, Togo, Ghana, the Ivory Coast; Trinidad, Tobago, and the U.S. After three months in New York, he moved on to the Bahamas, Cuba, and Canciln. “Drifting about in the hope that I could return back home if things change,” as he told the I.N.S., Balogun was in transit \(returning from Cancim to false name on it, when the I.N.S. arrested him. “Do I have the right to remain silent?” he asked, according to I.N.S. records. He then said, “I will answer to the best of my ability.” He requested political asylum and was detained at the Houston Processing Center. The reason Balogun wasn’t sent back home immediately is that he passed his “credible fear” interview with an immigration officer, a critical step in the process of applying for political asylum. But, because of his criminal background, he was ruled ineligible for asylum. Instead, he, too, applied for protection under the Convention Against Torture. After sixteen months in detention, he had his C.A.T. hearing, and the immigration judge in Houston determined that his credibility was “nonexistent.” Five months later, in October 1999, the Board of Immigration Appeals remanded the case back to the immigration court, observing that current conditions in Nigeria were “very relevant” to Balogun’s case but had been inadequately considered. On February 15 of this year, Balogun’s claim for protection was denied again. As attorney Brannen explains the decision, Judge Howard Van Winkle reiterated the earlier finding against Balogun’s credibility, then considered current conditions in Nigeria, as instructed by the Bureau of Immigration Appeals. After decades of military dictatorship, General Olusegun Obasanjo was inaugurated in May 1999 as an elected president. Conditions in Nigeria, the judge found, are better. But the strange twist in Balogun’s case is this: the reason he was a good candidate for deportation from the U.S. back in 1993 may be precisely why he deserves protection here now. Though he was subsequently tortured for political activity, the first time Balogun was tortured, “he was tortured for simply being a criminal,” says Brannen. The attorney cites reports from the State Department and the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights to support his argument that torture is part of “the normal process” in Nigerian jails. Even with political change at the top, Brannen adds, it will take “decades” to reform local police practices. Balogun has one more chance on appeal. When the Bureau of Immigration Appeals remanded the case last October, it ordered an automatic review should the immigration judge rule adversely. Brannen is confident about the new appeal. He says that Nigerian authorities are “gloating over improvements” in the country’s jails, “but the facts don’t bear them out.” He points out that since Obasanjo took office, only about 2,000 prisoners have been released of a total prison population ranging from 40,000 to 120,000, depending on the estimate. The number released is miniscule in terms of reducing the overcrowding that makes the Nigerian jail system a human rights abuse in and of itself, argues Brannen. Moreover, “there are still credible reports of torture” in those jails. Finally, Brannen has submitted United Nations documentation of “illegal airport detention centers” in Lagos and the torture of Nigerians returned from Germany. While Balogun awaits the court’ s decision, he remains detained in Houston. Brannen filed three parole requests for him, the first in October 1998. His September 1999 request included a letter from an assistant warden calling Balogun a “model inmate.” In January the parole requests were denied by an I.N.S. assistant district director, because Balogun had attempted to enter the country with fraudulent French and Ghanaian passports and because he “never mentioned that he had been deported before.” In his next parole request, Brannen plans to include a letter recently written by psychiatrist Theron Bowers \(who visits I.N.S. / C.C.A. detainees regularly on a contract traumatic stress disorder” have “shown some improvement” with medication, and “could improve even further if released.” But even winning his appeal would not necessarily mean release from detention for Balogun. Under regulations guiding claims based on the Convention Against Torture, the I.N.S. can keep him in custody if he prevails or remove him to a third country. Brannen admits his client “did some things wrong,” but he argues that Balogun “doesn’t deserve to spend the rest of his life in a U.S. jail if he wins his case.” As our separate interviews ended, Balogun and Efe independently shared stories of detainees whose patience has run out. Balogun ofattempted suicide because of prolonged detention.” In Dorm 4, a man had tried to slit his throat with a razor just days before. In Dorm 7, a month earlier, another man had cut his wrists and was found “lying quietly, bleeding.” Efe told of another who tried to hang himself after being held even once he had agreed to deportation. “A lot of it is just attention-getters,” opines Assistant Warden Jimmy Cook of C.C.A. A farmer and rancher with a career in corrections at facilities in Texas and Louisiana, Cook’s approach to his work is different from Warden Martin’s. He says the biggest challenge in this field has always been breaking a man who thinks he can’t be broken. He has seen a lot of suicide attempts over the years, but doesn’t take them too seriously. They just want “to see the warden or the I.N.S. quicker, a lot of that is just a ploy and a game.” If a ploy, it is a desperate one. “It’s very frustrating,” explains Balogun, “people are even willing to risk their lives to go back to their country of persecution just to avoid detention. They are tired of prolonged detention.” Then he offers the kind of insight that might be what makes him so unpopular with the Immigration Service. “That’s the strategy the I.N.S. [is] using right now to frustrate asylum-seekers so they can give up and…go back home.” Mark Dow is working on a book about immigration detention centers. He can be reached at [email protected] . MAY 12, 2000 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15