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6 Return to U.S. in Iraqi Refugee Case

September 29, 2000|From Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — Six U.S. residents returned home Thursday to hugs and cheers from relatives after being held for more than a week in a Mexican jail on charges of providing illegal help to Iraqi Christians seeking asylum.

Relatives rushed to greet them as they walked across the border crossing that links San Diego and Tijuana.

"We were innocent," Kathy Barno of El Cajon said. "We have done nothing wrong and I'm glad I'm back home with my family."

Mexican authorities deported the six after a judge in Tijuana dismissed the charges for lack of evidence, said Wendell Cutting, an aide to Rep. Duncan Hunter, a San Diego-area Republican. The six will not be allowed to return to Mexico for two years.

They were released from the jail in downtown Tijuana at 5 a.m. Their arrival in the United States was delayed more than 10 hours as Mexican authorities completed the procedure.

The six, who live in the San Diego area, were arrested last week at a Tijuana hotel where Mexican authorities detained 133 Iraqi Christians, or Chaldeans, who traveled to Mexico to seek political asylum in the United States.

Mexican authorities suspected the six of providing illegal assistance to the Iraqi asylum seekers, who have now entered the United States to apply for residency.

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