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Pennsylvania man charged with torture

Human RightsPennsylvania man charged with torture

WASHINGTON – Pursuant to a joint investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Philadelphia Field Office and the FBI, a Pennsylvania man was arrested on charges alleging that he tortured a victim in the Kurdistan region of Iraq in 2015. A superseding indictment returned in the Middle District of Pennsylvania charges Ross Roggio, 53, of Stroudsburg, with suffocating the victim with a belt, threatening to cut off one of the victim’s fingers, and directing Kurdish soldiers to inflict other severe physical and mental pain and suffering on the victim.

“HSI is committed to upholding the law, both within the United States and abroad,” said Special Agent in Charge William S. Walker of the HSI Philadelphia Field Office. “Holding accountable Americans who commit human rights violations like those alleged in this superseding indictment is the chief priority of the No Safe Haven mission. This indictment is the result of extraordinary collaboration between HSI and our law enforcement partners. This case serves as another reminder that HSI works tirelessly to investigate those who seek to escape justice from crimes they commit overseas.”

“The Grand Jury charges that the defendant directed and participated in the systematic torture of an employee whistleblower over the course of 39 days by Kurdish soldiers in Iraq,” said U.S. Attorney John C. Gurganus for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. “The grand jury’s indictment and the hard work of our law enforcement partners show that such brutality will be exposed and addressed wherever it occurs.”

“This defendant leveraged his position and used soldiers with a foreign military as his personal brute squad in order to intimidate and coerce someone who was a threat to the success of his corrupt scheme,” said Special Agent in Charge Jacqueline Maguire of the FBI’s Philadelphia Field Office. “Whether in the United States or on foreign soil, heinous acts like torture violate our laws. The FBI has a global reach and working in concert with our federal and international partners, will pursue justice for any victim – here or abroad – who suffers at the hands of an American citizen.”

“The illegal export of firearms parts and tools from the United States is often connected to other criminal acts, to include, as set forth in the superseding indictment, allegations of torture,” said Special Agent in Charge Jonathan Carson of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Export Enforcement, New York Field Office. “The Office of Export Enforcement will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to aggressively enforce export violations in the interest of public safety in the U.S. and abroad.”

If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for each of the torture charges as well as a maximum statutory penalty of 705 years in prison for the remaining 37 counts. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

HSI and the FBI investigated the torture allegations and were joined in the investigation of the alleged arms export violations by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement. The Pennsylvania State Police provided valuable assistance.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case was supported by ICE’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC). The HRVWCC is the only U.S. government entity focused completely on investigating global atrocities and the perpetrators of human rights violations and war crimes. Initiated by HSI in 2008, the HRVWCC leverages the knowledge and expertise of a select group of special agents, attorneys, intelligence analysts, criminal research specialists and historians who are charged with preventing the U.S. from becoming a haven for individuals who engage in the commission of war crimes, genocide, torture and other forms of serious human rights abuses from conflicts around the globe.

Currently, HSI has more than 180 active investigations into suspected human rights violators and is pursuing more than 1,700 leads and removal cases involving suspected human rights violators from 95 different countries. Since 2003, the HRVWCC has issued more than 78,000 lookouts for individuals from more than 110 countries and stopped over 350 human rights violators and war crimes suspects from entering the U.S.

Members of the public who have information about foreign nationals suspected of engaging in human rights abuses or war crimes are urged to call the HSI tip line at: 1-866-DHS-2423 (1-866-347-2423). Callers may remain anonymous.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity.

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