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Ethiopian man convicted on US immigration counts

DENVER (AP) – A man accused of torturing and killing people in an Ethiopian prison in the 1970s was convicted of immigration charges in Denver federal court Friday.

Kefelgn Alemu Worku (kah-FEH’-lun ah-LEE’-moo WER’-koo) was convicted on three counts related to immigration fraud, The Denver Post reported (

Prosecutors said Worku lied on immigration forms when he denied committing political persecution. He could face up to 12 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.

Worku has not been charged in Denver with any crimes related to prison abuse. He has acknowledged using a false name to gain admission to the U.S. but denied the torture allegations.

A witness testified Thursday that she saw Worku kill two boys in an Ethiopian prison in the late 1970s.

Abebech Demissie, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Ethiopia, testified she was an inmate at the prison known as Higher 15 in Addis Ababa and Worku was a guard there. Demissie said Worku and other guards tied her up and beat her.

Worku’s attorney, Matthew Golla, questioned whether Demissie could accurately identify Worku more than 30 years after the events at the Ethiopian prison.

“I can’t delete what I have in my memory,” she replied.

Worku came to the United States in 2004 and had been living in Denver.

Authorities say a former prisoner at Higher 15 recognized Worku at a suburban Denver restaurant in 2011 and alerted law enforcement officers.

Higher 15 was established amid a campaign known as Red Terror. Human Rights Watch, a watchdog group, called it “one of the most systematic uses of mass murder by a state ever witnessed in Africa.”

Golla said Worku has lived peacefully in Denver for eight years, working at Denver International Airport and for a parking lot company.

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