Asylum Granted for Haynes and Boone Pro Bono Client


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Haynes and Boone Of Counsel Ed Lebow has won asylum for a 36-year-old Cameroon native who endured arrest, torture, rape and the retaliatory murder of her husband and uncle in response to her participation in political activities associated with the Union Democratique du Cameroon.

“This woman has endured the worst oppression imaginable at the hands of her home country’s government,” said Lebow. “It was gratifying that the system correctly responded to her request for asylum. I hope that she will be able to find some peace and rebuild her life here in our country.”

On three separate occasions between August 2004 and November 2011 the woman was arrested, kept in solitary confinement, repeatedly beaten and subjected to personal humiliation. During the third incarceration she was gang-raped in punishment for her participation in demonstrations and meetings against the dictatorial practices of Cameroon President Paul Biya and his government.

The woman, who received an undergraduate degree in psychology, had a U.S. visa because she had returned to school to study audio-visual engineering, and as a result of that skill had been selected as the audio-visual technician for a Cameroonian group attending a conference on HIV/AIDS in New York in December 2011. After she was arrested, tortured and raped in November 2011, an uncle secured her release from prison by bribing a guard and helped her use her visa to flee to the United States. Subsequently the uncle, as well as the husband of the escapee, were arrested, tortured and killed. The whereabouts of the woman’s four children are now unknown.

After spending several months in a state of shock and in near seclusion, the woman met and entered the care of a French-speaking, Algerian-born psychotherapist working for Montgomery County, Md. The therapist referred the woman to the Tahirih Justice Center, an organization funded by the Baha’i Faith that supports women who are the victims of violence, including rape and genital mutilation.

Lebow, who speaks French, became involved with the case pro bono and filed the woman’s I-589 request for political asylum within a few weeks. After arranging medical and psychological evaluations and obtaining a statement on Cameroon politics and prison conditions from an expert at the University of Chicago, Lebow was able to file a detailed legal brief on behalf of the client. He accompanied her to a personal interview with an official of the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, and on April 10 she obtained asylum in the United States.

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