B.C. man accused of ‘terrorist’ ties fights deportation

VANCOUVER – A B.C. father of three is fighting a deportation order after Canadian officials ruled he was involved with a “terrorist” organization in his youth.

Jose Figueroa of Langley says the allegations against the organization are false, and he is determined to appeal the Canadian Immigration and Refugee board’s decision.

“I’m not leaving my kids,” said the 44-year-old, who’s originally from El Salvador.

“The FMLN has never been a terrorist organization.”

The FMLN, or the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, was a collection of five left-wing groups that fought an oppressive right-wing state responsible for death-squad killings.

Mr. Figueroa had helped build support for the group in the 1980s, when El Salvador was embroiled in civil war. After a UN-sponsored peace deal in 1992, the FMLN took office, and still governs the country.

When Mr. Figueroa and his family arrived in Canada 13 years ago and applied for refugee status, officials noted his FMLN involvement, but said nothing about deportation, he said.

“It’s 13 years after the fact. Why now?” he said.

At his immigration hearing, review board member Otto Nupponen said Mr. Figueroa was a member of an organization that had been involved in terrorism during the civil war – namely, attacks on mayors loyal to the state.

Mr. Figueroa said the FMLN isn’t on any terrorist list, and Mr. Nupponen agreed, but said some groups not listed have later been determined to be terrorist organizations.

Mr. Figueroa has filed for a judicial review of Mr. Nupponen’s decision, and is now waiting for the Ministry of Public Safety to respond.

Steve Stewart, program director of Co-Development Canada, which fosters links between Canadian and Latin American organizations, calls Mr. Nupponen’s decision “amusing.”

He said that after El Salvador’s civil war, a UN Truth Commission found that 85 per cent of violent activity was attributed to the state, while only five per cent was attributed to the FMLN.

“To call an organization that was fighting a regime that was responsible for such widespread violations is extreme,” Mr. Stewart said.

Mr. Figueroa is now meeting with lawyers, taking calls from supporters and trying to set up a trust fund at his church for legal costs.

“I know these allegations aren’t true,” he said, “and I’ll do whatever it takes to prove it.”

Vancouver Province


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