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For his work with an opposition political party in the Republic of Guinea, Mohamed Conde has been arrested twice, severely beaten, and threatened with death. That might not be enough to win him political asylum in the United States. According to his lawyer, sole practitioner C. Benjamin Guile, Conde must contend with one of the toughest immigration judges in the country, Judge William A. Cassidy. Guile claims that Cassidy has declined to grant Conde a change of venue from Atlanta to New York, where he resides. Guile says he suspects that Cassidy is biased against asylum claimants, citing a study published by the San Jose Mercury News that ranks the judge among the last in the nation on how often he grants asylum. He has filed motions asking Cassidy to change venue and to recuse himself from the case. U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Mohamed Conde, No. A77936066 (Oct. 19, 2000). Conde will appear before Cassidy on Jan. 22. If Cassidy rules against Conde, Guile says he will appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals, and ultimately to the federal courts as a due process issue. “This is what asylum is all about,” Guile says. “Mohamed himself, as a person, is on point.” However, Guile concedes that his client faces an uphill battle. The INS judges in Atlanta require a very high standard of proof that an applicant faces oppression if he returns to his homeland. “They can’t get asylum because they don’t have a letter from their dictator promising to kill them if they come home,” Guile says. “And if they did, it probably wouldn’t pass forensics.” According to a study published Oct. 18 by the San Jose Mercury News, Cassidy granted less than 2 percent of the asylum claims that he has heard over the past five years. The study says Cassidy granted asylum to 71 applicants of the 3,846 cases he decided. “There is more than a mere statistical certainty of bias; that is, there is clear evidence of bias,” Guile wrote in his motion to recuse. “In the alternative, if Hon. Cassidy is not exhibiting bias, then he is holding asylum claimants in his court to an incorrect and improperly high standard of proof, to the great harm of hundreds of asylum applicants.” A call to Cassidy wasn’t returned. Atlanta immigration lawyer David C. Farshy says he has little confidence the motion will succeed. “I think such a motion should be significant because it [Cassidy's asylum rate] is among the lowest in the country,” he says. “He should recuse himself, but knowing him as I do, he’s not going to do it.” COMPLAINT FILED IN 1997 Farshy filed a complaint against Cassidy in 1997 resulting from an asylum claim that he was handling for an Iranian client. While the case was pending, Cassidy called Farshy’s office and left a message that he was denying a recusal motion. The judge said the INS counsel was in his office with him at the time. When Cassidy had finished his message, the machine did not cut off, and the tape caught the judge telling the INS lawyer that the Board of Immigration Appeals would likely overturn his ruling, “but, hell, I am going to give him a hard way to go.” On the basis of the tape, Farshy again filed a motion for Cassidy to recuse himself, but the judge refused, and ruled against Farshy’s client’s petition for asylum. Farshy then filed a complaint with the Executive Office for Immigration Review and the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility. The Board of Immigration Appeals later held that Cassidy should have recused himself, and had ruled correctly on the asylum claim. The Justice Department found no wrongdoing on Cassidy’s part worthy of punishment. “Since then I have filed numerous motions to recuse, and he routinely grants them,” Farshy says with a chuckle. “It’s because of our history together.” Atlanta immigration lawyer Charles H. Kuck says numbers alone shouldn’t force Cassidy to recuse himself. Cases in which applicants file bogus or boilerplate asylum claims and then disappear before the hearing may have skewed the judge’s asylum rate, he says. “I’m sure he gets literally hundreds of those cases a year, and each one counts as a denial,” says Knuck. ARRESTED, BEATEN But Guile says Conde’s claim rings true to him. Speaking in French, with Guile translating, Conde explains that Guinea’s government has arrested him twice for his political activities. The first time was on Dec. 15, 1993, when the military imprisoned him for eight days and beat him for hours for his refusal to give out the names of other opposition party members, Conde says. The second arrest was on Sept. 28, 1998, when government forces imprisoned him for more than two weeks. During one ferocious pummeling, Conde says, a guard smashed in the side of his face. Later in 1998, Conde’s friend and fellow activist Mohamed Muktar Dumbuya returned from a trip to the United States, and Conde met him at the airport. Muktar came out, handed Conde his bag, and returned for the rest of his baggage. Conde waited more than an hour for his friend. Then, he says, he saw him leaving, surrounded by a squad of soldiers. An official said he had been caught with political tracts. Conde went to his apartment, only to find it padlocked. Soldiers were looking for him, he was told by his landlord. Several weeks later, Conde used his friend’s passport to fly to New York, where he asked for asylum. The INS held Conde in the detention center in New York, then transferred him to Atlanta because of overcrowding in the jail. On arrival in Atlanta, Guile won Conde’s release, listing the address of some of Conde’s friends in Atlanta, because he did not have the number of Conde’s apartment in New York. That Atlanta address, as far as the court is concerned, is Conde’s residence. “Every time he’s scheduled for an appearance he has to get on the bus and come down here,” Guile says. “If they had shipped him to Hawaii and wanted to file in Hawaii, Mohamed would have to go to Hawaii.”

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