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Jenner & Block recently hosted a reception celebrating the newfound freedom of pro bono client Kisuule Magala Katende, a prominent broadcast journalist from Uganda who had suffered repeated harassment and beatings by persons acting on behalf of the Ugandan government. Last month, Mr. Katende was granted asylum in the U.S. with help from Associate Wade A. Thomson and Partner Lawrence S. Schaner.
Mr. Katende told the attendees some of the chilling details of the persecution he sustained. For instance, after he aired a report on a controversial referendum, a paramilitary group beat him and his pregnant wife, and subjected him to torture by detaining him in a short cell with rising cold water, forcing him to stand for many hours in a hunched-over position, he said.
In another instance, he said that in 2005, government security forces arrested Mr. Katende without charge, beat him and threatened his life after he broadcasted a live interview with the leading opposition candidate for the president of Uganda.
“My passion in life is to tell the news,” said Mr. Katende, “but in Uganda I was repeatedly punished for that.”
Shortly after the 2005 arrest, Mr. Katende said that he had the opportunity to come to the United States on a work-related matter. He remained in the country past the completion of his job and eventually contacted the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), formerly the Midwest Immigrant & Human Rights Center, to help him petition for asylum.
Mr. Thomson successfully secured asylum for Mr. Katende at the interview stage of the asylum process, following an interview conducted by an asylum officer of the Department of Homeland Security.
“We knew it was a priority to be prepared to answer for every aspect of Kasuule’s petition,” said Mr. Thomson, “and to make sure he had a chance to fully recount his stories of persecution.”
After winning asylum, Mr. Katende was hired as a producer for Chicago Public Radio. He also has been working with the Firm in order to bring his family to the United States.
“I was very fortunate to find the NIJC and Wade. Thanks to Jenner & Block for a chance at life again,” concluded Mr. Katende.
Providing opening remarks at the discussion were Partner Barry Levenstam, Co-Chair of the Pro Bono Committee, and Mr. Schaner, supervising attorney on this case and member of the Leadership Council of the NIJC.