Sean O’Cealleagh (also spelled Kelly), a U.S. Greencard holder since 2001, has won his deportation case following a Los Angeles immigration trial that revisited a murder he was convicted of in Northern Ireland. In 1990, O’Cealleagh was found guilty by a British Diplock [non-jury] Court for aiding and abetting the murder of two British soldiers in 1988 in West Belfast. O’Cealleagh has always maintained that he was innocent of this crime. He was later released under the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and he immigrated to the U.S. in 1999.
O’Cealleagh was detained by immigration officers at the Los Angeles airport on February 25, 2004 upon his return from a visit to Northern Ireland. FBI agents interrogated him and accused him of having knowledge of dealings with the I.R.A. and Al Qaeda.
O’Cealleagh’s case then went to trial, and on April 23, 2004, Los Angeles Judge Rose Peters ruled that he was allowed to stay in the U.S. She declared his previous arrest, conviction and imprisonment in Northern Ireland as political in nature. The U.S. government, on behalf of the British government, is planning to appeal the decision and continue its attempts to deport him. His supporters were irate that even after the U.S. ruling, he was still incarcerated in L.A. for reasons that were unclear at the time of press. ♦