Matt DeHart, a former American soldier who sought asylum in Canada claiming torture by U.S. agents probing Anonymous hackers and WikiLeaks, was taken from his Ontario prison cell Sunday morning and delivered to U.S. agents at the border.
Mr. DeHart, 30, was allowed to make a quick phone call en route to his parents, who are living in Toronto facing their own removal order, said his father, Paul.
“He was peaceful and in good health,” Paul DeHart said in an interview but the family remains deeply worried.
“We are concerned about Matt’s safety as he transits,” he said. “We said a prayer together on the phone and gave him into God’s hands for protection.”
His claim for refugee protection in Canada, on the basis of his torture claim, was rejected last month by the Immigration and Refugee Board.
“I cannot imagine any life in a country which has already tortured me,” he told theNational Post last month. “Am I now to be given into the hands of my torturers?”
His is a bizarre, high-profile case, featured in a large investigation by the Post in May. It has since been featured in international media, including recent pieces by Germany’sDer Spiegel and Al Jazeera America.
Mr. DeHart fled to Canada with his parents ahead of a criminal trial on child pornography charges that he insists were laid by authorities as leverage to further a national espionage and national security probe.
Mr. DeHart says the pornography charges are a ruse to investigate his involvement in Anonymous and his operation of a “hidden” Internet server used to leak a classified U.S. government document, likely destined to WikiLeaks, the whistle-blowing organization.
A Post investigation revealed many problems with the evidence in the pornography case and confirmed the FBI interrogated him on espionage and security matters several times while he was in custody under unusual circumstances.
In it’s decision on his asylum claim, the IRB raised similar concerns, saying there are enough questions about the case “to cast sufficient doubt on the credibility” of the government’s case and found no “credible or trustworthy evidence” he committed child pornography offences.
However, his claim for protection was not accepted because the IRB said the United States “has a fair and independent judicial process” where he can fight his criminal charges and press his civil rights complaint.
Paul DeHart said he does not expect to be in direct contact with his son again for several weeks now he is back in U.S. custody.
Last time he was arrested by U.S. authorities at the border, he was incarcerated without a timely court appearance or speaking with a lawyer. In that time, the FBI interrogated him several times, but not about child pornography, documents show.
“He has publicity now so maybe he will transit without incident,” said Paul DeHart.
Tor Ekeland, his New York lawyer, said despite legal requests, Canadian officials would not say which border crossing Mr. DeHart was being taken to.
“We wanted to have a lawyer present,” Mr. Ekeland said. “We’ll be doing our best to find him.” He said since Mr. DeHart’s allegations of torture came after his detention by border guards, this is concerning.
Mr. DeHart is expected to end up in one of four county jails in either Tennessee or Kentucky, where inmates awaiting trial in the district where he was charged usually are housed.
Anna Pape, a spokeswoman for Canada Border Services Agency, declined to provide any details, or even confirmation, of Mr. DeHart’s removal.
“The CBSA places highest priority on removal cases involving criminals, national security, crimes against humanity and organized crime,” she said. “Removals of failed refugees and individuals with other immigration violations are also necessary to maintain the integrity of Canada’s immigration program.
“The decision to remove someone from Canada is not taken lightly. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act states that removal orders must be enforced as soon as possible. The CBSA is firmly committed to doing so.”
Paul DeHart, and his wife, Leann, are finalizing their own departure plans after also being refused asylum in Canada.
“The panel acknowledges that this particular claim is by no means a simple one,” wrote IRB adjudicator Patrick Roche on the DeHart family’s refugee claim.
“The principal claimant is alleging that he is being persecuted by the government of the United States, or agents of that government, for his perceived political beliefs as a hacker and whistleblower involved in leaking sensitive government information,” wrote Mr. Roche. “He alleges that he has been falsely accused of crimes in order to keep him incarcerated and he alleges that he had been drugged and subjected to interrogations without his constitutional rights.”
Despite evidence of the U.S. government’s harsh treatment of computer hackers, Mr. Roche found American justice could be trusted to deal with Mr. DeHart’s case.