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Press Release

Snellville man arrested for fraudulently obtaining U.S. citizenship

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Georgia

ATLANTA – Mezemr Abebe Belayneh has been arraigned on criminal charges related to his alleged lies to obtain U.S. citizenship.  The defendant allegedly concealed his involvement in the late 1970s Red Terror period in Ethiopia, where he served as a civilian interrogator at a makeshift prison.

“The laws of the United States are designed to provide refuge for the victims of human rights violation and to exclude those who commit them,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine. “The defendant’s alleged lies through his immigration and naturalization process subverted this system.  We commend our law enforcement partners at the Department of Homeland Security and the dedicated team at the Department of Justice who work tirelessly to assure that individuals such as the defendant do not have a safe haven in our communities.”

“Human rights violators have no home in the United States,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “No matter how much time has passed, the Department of Justice will find and prosecute individuals who committed atrocities in their home countries and covered them up to gain entry to the United States.”

“Abebe’s lies and horrible past deeds have thankfully come back to haunt him. Now he will be held accountable,” said Special Agent in Charge Katrina W. Berger, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama. “Thanks to some great work from the agents and officers involved in this case as well as our law enforcement partners, justice will be served.”

According to Acting U.S. Attorney Erskine, the indictment, and other information presented in court: Mezemr Abebe Belayneh served as a civilian interrogator at a makeshift prison in Dilla, Ethiopia, during a period in the late 1970s known as the Red Terror. At the prison, Abebe ordered and participated in the severe physical abuse and interrogation of prisoners held on the basis of their political beliefs.

The indictment alleges that Abebe unlawfully procured U.S. citizenship, to which he was not entitled, by concealing his involvement in the Red Terror when he falsely claimed that he had not persecuted anyone because of their political opinions and had never committed a crime for which he had not been arrested.

Mezemr Abebe Belayneh, 65, of Snellville, Georgia, was indicted by a federal grand jury on May 26, 2021 and is charged with two counts of unlawful procurement of naturalization.  Members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contains charges.  The defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.  A conviction would also result in automatic revocation of Abebe’s U.S. citizenship. 

This case is being investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, and coordination in the case was provided by the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC). Established in 2009, the HRVWCC furthers the government’s efforts to identify, locate, and prosecute human rights abusers in the United States, including those who are known or suspected to have participated in persecution, war crimes, genocide, torture, extrajudicial killings, female genital mutilation, and the use or recruitment of child soldiers.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Morris of the Northern District of Georgia, and Trial Attorneys Jamie Perry and Patrick Jasperse of the Justice Department’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP) are prosecuting the case, with assistance from HRSP Senior Historian Dr. Christopher Hayden.

Members of the public who have information about former human rights violators in the United States are urged to contact U.S. law enforcement through the HSI tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (1-866-347-2423) or its online tip form at

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is

Updated June 21, 2021