`Casement Three' man faces deportation from U.S
`Casement Three' man faces deportation from U.S

One of the men known as the `Casement Three', jailed for alleged involvement in the 1998 killing of two British soldiers, faces deportation to Belfast despite being freed under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Sean Kelly, who has already been held without bail for a month, remains confined in a U.S. federal detention facility in California as he waits for a three-day hearing next month that will determine if he can remain in the United States.

Kelly is a popular figure in his coastal comunity, where he managed a bar and restaurant. He is married to an American and the a 3-year-old son.

Kelly denied even being present during the killings of two British soldiers who crashed their car into a republican funeral Mr Kelly attended in 1998.

Kelly was accused of bringing one of the men into Casement Park, where they were later abducted by the IRA and shot. He was convicted by a non-jury court on the basis he had ``common purpose'' with the IRA unit who carried out the killings, an unprecedented ruling which caused outrage to human rights groups.

He and two others were sentenced to life in what was seen as an extraordinary abuse of the judicial process.

Following the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, Mr Kelly was released, ultimately settling in the U.S. after revealing his past conviction to the authorities.

On Feb. 25, he was detained on a jetliner at Los Angeles International Airport after returning from a visit to Ireland to attend the christening of a nephew.

According to US Immigration, Mr Kelly, although a permanent resident, is a convicted criminal. His ability to remain in the United States could be stripped if it is found that he committed a crime of ``moral turpitude''.

Kelly's lawyers said that he disclosed his convictions fully when he applied for residency. He was granted permanent residency in 2001.

``The U.S. government gave him a green card. It implies that they (either) made a mistake or they believed it was a political conviction,'' attorney Jim Byrne said.

Friends say Kelly is a mistaken target of U.S. anti-terrorism legislation, and on Sunday they raised $7,500 for his legal fees in a fund-raiser at the bar which Mr Kelly operates.

``He's got himself a home, a wife, a child. ... He pays his taxes, he's been a model citizen,'' said Brian Kyle, the bar's owner.

``There's different battles we need to fight in this country. This isn't one of them,'' he said.

``I think it was a miscarriage of justice,'' said Gene Wagner, a Westminster neighbor. ``I think everybody gets caught up in this Patriot Act ... I hope he's exonerated so he can get his life back in order.''

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