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Former child soldier from Sierra Leone released after 2 years in MN jails

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A native of Sierra Leone who has been in detained for the past two years in Minnesota on an immigration hold is now a free man.

Nelson Kargbo, 30, was released from the Carver County jail Thursday after a judge ruled the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency could not deport him, according to KARE 11.

Kargbo, of Woodbury, was a child soldier in Sierra Leone and came to the U.S. in 2000 as a refugee. ICE had sought to send him back to his home country because he has several criminal convictions - mostly misdemeanors, the Star Tribune reports.

An immigration judge ruled earlier that Kargbo's life could be at risk if he were sent back to Sierra Leone because he had been forced to join a ruthless rebel organization in the 1990s when he was only 11 years old, according to MPR News.

And a U.S. magistrate judge ruled last week that ICE did not prove that Kargbo should be deported to another country, and that the period of time they could keep him detained under immigration laws has expired.

Kargbo's case was argued by the American Civil Liberties Union, law students at the Center for New Americans at the University of Minnesota, and the Dorsey & Whitney law firm, KARE 11 reports.

They argued that Kargbo committed crimes, including shoplifting and terroristic threats, because he was influenced by post-traumatic stress disorder and mental illness, according to the Star Tribune.

MPR News notes that the ordeal means Kargbo has lost his status as a permanent U.S. resident and a chance to become a U.S. citizen. In a statement released Friday, Kargbo said he looks forward to spending time with his four children.

Sierra Leone was torn apart by a brutal civil war in the 1990s and early 2000s. Last year it was one of the African countries hardest hit by the ebola outbreak.

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