Cases & Deals

Ethiopian political refugee obtains asylum

Clients R. D.

Jones Day client, R.D., a 24 year-old citizen of Ethiopia, received a grant of asylum, following her interview with an asylum officer. R.D. became politically active after her father was arrested, imprisoned, and tortured for protesting the outcome of the disputed 2005 Ethiopian national elections. When she entered college, R.D. founded a student group that publicly addressed controversial social issues such as forced marriage, child labor, and female genital mutilation. She was also part of a small group of students that met secretly to discuss pro-democracy ideas, participate in meetings of opposition political parties, and secretly distribute information to the student body in opposition to the ruling party. When the school administration discovered the group's secret mission, the group was disbanded and the core members of the group - including R.D. - were expelled from school.

Out of fear for her safety, R.D. fled her home town and moved to Addis Ababa. Eventually, however, the police found her and she was arrested and imprisoned for five weeks. While she was in jail, she was interrogated, tortured, and raped. Despite the horrific abuse, she never disclosed the names of the other students in the student group. She was released only when her family bribed one of the guards to let her out. A few short weeks later, she fled to the United States on a tourist visa. After arriving in the United States, R.D. learned that the police had come looking for her again and had arrested her husband and her brother in her stead. She has not heard from either of them since their arrests.

Jones Day attorneys worked with R.D. to draft her asylum application and to prepare for her interview with the asylum office. At the interview, R.D. withstood difficult questioning, including much confusion over the differences between the Ethiopian and U.S. calendars. Ultimately, the asylum officer found her to be eligible for asylum based on her credibility, the past persecution she suffered because of her political opinion, and her reasonable fear that she would be persecuted if she returned to Ethiopia.