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Eye On Boise

Of refugees, terrorism and the Kurbanov case…

A number of national news reports have recently claimed that no one who came to the U.S. as a refugee has ever been arrested for anything related to terrorism. We in Idaho know that’s not the case, as Fazliddin Kurbanov was convicted in August of attempting to provide material support to a terrorist group, conspiring to do the same, and possession of an unregistered destructive device. Kurbanov had come to Boise in 2009 as a Christian refugee from Uzbekistan, a Muslim country where he and his family were persecuted after their conversion to Christianity.

It was only after living in the United States, moving elsewhere for work and meeting and staying with fellow Uzbekis that Kurbanov converted to Islam and made contact with a terrorist organization in Uzbekistan that was linked to the Taliban; his convictions involved his activities three years after arriving in the U.S. He’s now awaiting sentencing.

Wendy Olson, U.S. Attorney for Idaho, wrote in a recent guest opinion, “Evidence presented at his trial showed that his criminal activity, his attempts and his communication with a known terrorist organization overseas began only after he had been in the United States for some time. Kurbanov’s actions were his own, not those of the greater refugee community. Both his entry into this country and his prosecution for criminal acts that occurred after he arrived are consistent with the principles of due process and rule of law for which this country is known.”

She added, “An equally important principle on which our system of justice is based is that we investigate, detain and prosecute people based on what they do, and not based on how they look, how they worship, the clothes they wear or their country of origin. Our history shows, through the internment of thousands of Japanese-Americans in World War II, that when we ignore this principle, we get it wrong.” You can read Olson’s full article here.

Jan Reeves, director of the Idaho Office for Refugees, said, “Everything that I have read indicates that he became disaffected and radicalized after he arrived in the U.S. If this is the case, then it’s not about the vetting process.” He said he believes the case, instead, points to the need to make sure people who arrive as refugees “have all the opportunities they need to become successful.”

“Inclusion and integration is the best preventer of radical ideas and radical behavior,” Reeves said. He said people who feel like they belong “are not nearly as likely to act out against society.”

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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