If you haven't been following the case of Rrustem Neza, an Albanian seeking political asylum in the United States, you're missing a gripping ongoing tale. The 32-year-old Neza, who settled in Lufkin and opened restaurants there and is represented by a Dallas attorney, claims that if the United States government succeeds in deporting him back to his homeland, he'll likely be killed -- since, after all, he has publicly revealed the names of the men who killed Albanian Democratic Party leader Azem Hajdari in 1998.
But the U.S. government, which has repeatedly denied him asylum, wants him out of the country -- to the point where immigration officials have asked to sedate Neza for a flight back to Albania, following a failed attempt in August to get him on a plane at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The airline wouldn't let him board -- mainly because Neza kept screaming, "I am not a terrorist!"
Days ago, the Board of Immigration Appeals yet again denied Neza's request to stay in the country -- blaming his controversial Dallas-based attorney, John Wheat Gibson, for promoting the case in the first place, thus putting his own client's life in jeopardy. Gibson, who's been posting regular updates and pleas to such sites as Texas Civil Rights Review, would disagree.
At the moment, Reza's being held by the Department of Homeland Security in Haskell -- but U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Republican from Tyler, has intervened, accusing the government of "apathy and callousness"; he's also introduced a bill that would stop the deportation proceedings, till at least 2009, and let Neza reapply for asylum. Like I said, gripping. --Robert Wilonsky
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