This page is under construction - by someone who is a writer - not a web designer. Please bear with me. Thank you for your patience
How and why Audrius came
His life in America
What people who know him have to say about him
Articles and letters - about Audrius, freedom, terrorists and America
What really happened
A look at those documents
What was done to Audrius
What has been claimed
What has been done
What documents and witnesses say compard to what ICE stated
WHO IS AUDRIUS KAZENAS?
|A LOVING FATHER, TRUSTED FRIEND AND VALUED NEIGHBOR WHO IS GREATLY MISSED WHILE BEING DETAINED BY ICE||MILITARY OFFICER AND HERO
OF STRUGGLE TO FREE LITHUANIA FROM SOVIET OPPRESSION THAT HELPED END THE COLD WAR
|SON OF WELL KNOWN CHAMPION OF LITHUANIAN INDEPENDENCE AND FIGHTER AGAINST OPPRESSION AND CORRUPTION: RIMGAUDAS KAZENAS|
Audrius with friends in NH - last picture before he was taken and detained
Audrius standing in the Soviet nuclear missile site he and his fellow soldiers destroyed. Those missiles were aimed at U.S. military bases.
Audrius doing military training in Lithuania
|All military pictures are from Audrius' family and military pictures he left, along with his uniforms and medals, with my family for safe keeping.|
There have been many stories circulating about Audrius since he was taken from our small New Hampshire town the day before Thanksgiving in 2008. Some come from friends and neighbors who know him well. Some come from the person who brought him illegally to this country and who would benefit from his deportation. And some come from people who have never met him, but who have heard - something . . .
There are as many sides to a story as there are participants - plus one -
that one being the truth. None of us knows the precise truth - we all filter
incidents through our own experiences, needs and expectations. A paper trail
is a wonderful thing when seeking the truth . . .
This story has a long trail of medals, articles, pictures and documents. Audrius' detention has made those nearly impossible to access, but only "nearly." They are beginning to come in and they tell a story all their own . . .
Audrius has been granted relief from deportation under the
Convention Against Torture twice by an Immigration Judge. DHS
appealed that finding both times. His case is now in front of the First
Circuit Court and Audrius is on his fourth year of detention.
A TASTE OF THE CASE:
When Audrius was taken away by ICE, the townspeople came to his aid. Many donated money to help him out. The people of the small Northern NH community he was taken from could not afford it, but it was for the “giant Lithuanian” who always had a smile and kind word for everyone no matter how difficult his own life was – Those who knew Audrius had all witnessed just how hard his homelife had been. And besides – he had done so very much for all of us. They had to try to bring him back home. From that moment forward, we found ourselves in a bizarre world where a human being is guilty until proven innocent . . . Citizens, police and witnesses have no credibility and no rights . . . And legal terms – even laws – have no agreed-upon validity.
Here are a few examples of the information that was presented to the Immigration Court (the full text can be found here) – followed by what DHS’ Assistant Chief Counsel (immigration hearing’s version of a prosecutor) turned that information into in her multiple appeals to have Audrius deported to what he, his father and those who know him fear would be likely torture and death, despite the Immigration Judge’s two findings that Audrius should have relief from deportation under the Convention Against Torture. It reveals a legal system unlike any that most of us have ever seen, a form of "justice" that few of us ever thought could happen here.
In his final hearing Audrius spoke of known Chechen terrorists being secretly trained in Lithuania. Audrius and his father had both been vocal opponents to the training of these terrorists and have suffered multiple attacks and injustice for their support of the United States and their lack of support for Chechen terrorists. Audrius, while working undercover in military intelligence, had stumbled upon known Chechen terrorists training in a Lithuania. Their studies would improve the effectiveness of their attacks on Russia and also make attacks on Western Europe and the United States easier and more effective. He dug further and found who in the government had made it possible for these people to be trained in Lithuania and reported it. The person he reported it to began to look into it, and died when his car exploded soon after. In the court transcripts Audrius speaks extensively about this.
Here is a small portion from the transcripts:
“Audrius: Shamil Basayev was a former Soviet alpha operative when Chechnya was trying to break off. He formed the vast network of the combat groups and he was conducting the attacks on the soil outside of Chechnya on the targets such as hospitals, schools – one of the most recent targets of groups like that was – well, better known was in Beslan. Before that was Mohadjkala (phonetic spelling).
Question: And what kind of attacks did his group carry out?
Audrius: They would – basically they would infiltrate the village or town. They would take hostages. They would make demands. They would kill people and then they would ex-filtrate or they would plant explosives on civilian targets. They would kill people. They would blow people up.”
I did google search on “Shamil Basayev” who Audrius mentioned in his testimony and quickly found out that Basayev’s men were actively connected to al Qaeda and the Haqqani Network. In a list of Senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in U.S. air strikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2011 I found this: “Imam Asad – Camp commander of the Black Guard, al Qaeda’s elite bodyguard for Osama bin Laden and Aymanal Zawahiri. Asad was a Chechen with close links to Shamil Basayev. Date killed: March 1, 2006” Okay, so these guys aren’t just sticking to Russians (not that terrorism against Russia’s civilians is okay – it is not!). These people Audrius has knowledge of and that he and his dad are so openly against are supporting and involved in attacking U.S. troops too. If Chechen terrorists have been secretly training in Lithuania - we need to know about it! It is entirely possible if this information is ignored –one day we might wind up with terrorists from Eastern Europe in our own back yard. Wouldn't it be a good idea to look into this, learn about who is training whom in what, and take steps to protect ourselves before something happens?
DHS’ Assistant Chief Counsel does not seem to think so. She made it clear that DHS does not agree with Audrius and his father’s assessment of these people as terrorists and has no problem with them training in Lithuania. From her appeal brief:
“Although the respondent purports that he has secret knowledge of who allowed the Chechen guerillas to train in Lithuania during their quest for independence from the Soviet Union and that this is information that the Lithuanian Government fears will be revealed, both Chechnya and Lithuania publicly proclaimed a mutual interest. This bond forged in the belief that each was another example of Russian aggression against a small nation.”
According to DHS’ Assistant Chief Counsel, mutual interest in avoiding Russian aggression makes assisting known close associates of al Qaeda and the Taliban in obtaining diplomatic passports to facilitate free movement between countries and in obtaining the knowledge of how to demolish large concrete buildings and infrastructure such as that found in Western Europe and the U.S. is perfectly acceptable; it certainly is nothing that the Lithuanian officials involved would want to cover up and it is nothing for us to worry about. Yes, Lithuania and Chechnya are public about their mutual interest, but not about the use of terrorism to obtain that interest and as part of the European Union, they are not supposed to be training known terrorists in skills to make them more effective terrorists. But the bigger question is: When did DHS start calling these men, known as the wolves of Islam - "guerillas" on a "quest for freedom?"
* * *
As to Audrius’ father, the famous Rimgaudas Kazenas who has been such a strong advocate for Lithuania supporting the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan, and critic of some Lithuanian official’s support of anti-American activities. . . Despite Audrius submitting pictures of himself with his father along with an article from Lithuania with a picture of Rimgaudas in which his son, “Audrius” is named. DHS’ Assistant Chief Counsel wrote this in her appeal briefs:
“Respondent did not offer into evidence an affidavit or so much as a letter from the man the Respondent alleges is his father that described any attempts made by him to gather information in support of the Respondent’s applications for relief.” and: "The respondent claims that his father is Rimgaudas Kazenas, a well-known leader in the Lithuanian Union Party, but never offered any evidence of this material fact." and: "It is of note that the respondent did not offer into evidence an affidavit or so much as a letter from the man the respondent alleges is his father that described any attempts made by him to gather information in support of the respondent's applications for relief and protection. Further, other than the single statement that his father was once beaten, ther eis no evidence in the record that the respondent's father, who still resided in Lithuania has been harmed."
According to the court transcripts, what Audrius actually said was:
"Question: What kind of poblems has he had?
Audius: He was beaten up. He had his teeth knocked out. He was pushed on the street under the bus. He's not like completely incapacitated right now, but he has a movement restrictions."
|Of course, Audrius was being held in immigration detention all of this time and was not able to reach his father. DHS' Assistant Chief Counsel knew this. Did she not know that if any of what Audrius was saying was true, that Rimgaudas Kazenas getting involved in his son's case could put him in danger - that anyone obtaining those documents would be put in danger? Pro-American beliefs and actions are not popular with some people in Lithuania and the bus incident had left him in constant pain and under medication. Compounding this, none of the people helping Audrius speaks Lithuanian, so they were having difficulty finding Rimgaudas. Audrius’ wife, who speaks Lithuanian, and her lover had moved into the house Audrius had lived in all those years and she would profit handsomely if Audrius were deported, so she was no help. It appears DHS’ Assistant Chief Counsel was fully aware of all of this as one factual statements in her appeal brief regarding those missing documents could only have come from that same wife. It appears she did not care how many people she put in danger to get Audrius deported.|
Please note: Audrius’ lawyer insisted that we keep all of what was happening to Audrius quiet while his hearings were going on, but I did finally decide to make some of this more public and put a “Free Audrius Kazenas” page up on facebook. Within days Audrius’ relatives and some of the men who served with him found me and led me to Rimgaudas Kazenas. It turned out these people had been looking for him the whole time he was locked up. They told me that a rumor was circulating in Lithuania that Audrius was serving a life sentence in America for murder and they knew that couldn't be true - it wasn't the Audrius they knew, so they went looking for him. Within a few more days the Free Audrius Kazenas page was hideously attacked by friends of the one person who stood to gain from Audrius' deportation, but by then, the people who knew what really happened in Lithuania, who Audrius really was, had found him.
Rimgaudas Kazenas (center) with Senator Thomas Conway of Connecticut and Michael Jarjura, mayor of Waterburry, Connecticut.
This picture was recently sent to me by Rimgaudas Kazenas, along with a copy of the newspaper article from 2003 in which it was used. The article was an interview with Rimgaudas from a Lithuanian newspaper. In it he spoke of why Lithuania should support the United States in their battles in Iraq. In it he says: "Americans are pragmatic, rational people. They see the problem, and that problem has to be solved."
Despite the further danger to himself for doing so – and despite the immense amount of pain he is in as the result of landing under a bus for his pro-American/anti-terrorist stance – Audrius' father, Rimgaudas Kazenas, has stepped up to help his son. It is still difficult going, as Audrius is still locked up and can not communicate freely with his father – and I still don’t speak Lithuanian – but Rimgaudas Kazenas is not a man easily deterred – he is very concerned about what will happen to Audrius if he is deported and he is finding ways to communicate. He has written me letters, sent many articles, pictures (here) and even a DVD that show Rimgaudas giving speeches, training troops and also has the most incredible footage from a documentary of January 13, 1991 when he and Audrius stood against Soviet tanks in Vilnius, Lithuania to free their country from Soviet oppression once and for all. I am truly amazed to finally learn from Audrius' father and the men who served with Audrius the truth - which turned out to be not that Audrius was less than what he claimed, but that he was much more than any of us knew. Meanwhile, I hold my breath just a little, hoping that it does not bring more attacks down on Rimgaudas in Lithuania. He has done so much for freedom and for this country – and paid such a high price already.
Here’s another weird twist of reality via DHS’ Assistant Chief Counsel:
Before Audrius’ final hearing in front of an Immigration Judge where he was granted relief from deportation under the Convention Against Torture, the Chief of Police in town wrote to the Immigration Court:“Mr Kazenas has lived at his Savageville home for approx. six years and has not had any negative contact with the Lisbon Police Department other than his dogs occasionally running at large and a motor vehicle violation.”
A local police sergeant wrote: “I have always found him to hold himself in high regard to his behavior as a citizen of Lisbon. Audrius is in my opinion a true family man and has always done what he could to provide a good stable life for his family.”
Our local town administrator wrote: “Audrius displays that kind of selfless generosity and loyalty to others that you cannot put a price on. It’s precisely that characteristic that brought him to the United States to support his young wife and family.”
A woman who had done business with Audrius wrote: “The generous spirit of Audrius was most apparent when he traveled 2 hours (4 hours round trip) with me to help search for a missing dog. The weather was extremely cold, rainy and windy. Audrius searched for about 3 hours at night in a heavily wooded area with harsh wind as well as cold and driving rain, all without complaint.”
My young teenage son wrote: “I have gained a great deal of knowledge, motivation and strength from being around him. He has driven me to classes and supported all my interests through advice, motivation or heightening morale. It would be a great devastation to myself and the town if he was deported.”
A local business owner and Justice of the Peace wrote: “I have never known him to turn down a request for help from a friend, neighbor or stranger. He speaks five languages, but is a very humble, self effacing individual who would never try to laud his intelligence over anyone. He exercises great self control when faced with difficult situations and has an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time to help people.”
A business owner whose father fell from a heart attack and landed with a branch stuck in his neck against his carotid artery, and was then saved by Audrius wrote: “If he could fit into the uniform I’d call him an Eagle Scout, but he is more than that. He understands engineering, metallurgy, physics, machine shop, etc. I’ve been a shop instructor/machinist all of my life. I have worked some pretty big projects, the last being the Hubble Space Telescope. I know my way around the shop, however, when Audrius is around, I’m the student . . . To put it bluntly, the guy is brilliant. And he has a way of showing up just when you wish he would.” (These letters and more can be found in full on the "America" page)
Audrius had served a little over two years in prison in Lithuania for the death of a man who attacked him while he was working undercover in military intelligence. The documents regarding that are most interesting and I am including them on this site (here) as they are full of glaring discrepancies. To me, the most obvious of these was the witness statements did not match the coroner’s report as to the condition of the body of the man that died. Audrius had told us about his time in prison – everyone in town knew – and the coroner’s report was consistent with what Audrius said happened. If the body was in the condition the coroner stated it was in – after fighting with a huge man like Audrius who is trained in combat – there is no way the witnesses were telling the truth. But none of the many discrepancies should have mattered once it was discovered that the two documents presented had dates that did not match. According to one, Audrius got into the fight that landed him briefly in prison a month after the other document says he was tried and convicted for it. One document had to be wrong, but which one? DHS used both documents against Audrius anyway.
Before and after that one incident that was tied to Audrius’ work in uncovering drug running and corruption in Lithuania, Audrius was never convicted of anything. The court had plenty of statements from reputable citizens confirming that. There was no evidence presented at the hearing that he had ever been in any trouble other than that one time - he'd spent just a little over two years in prison and had gone right back to his position as an officer in the military as soon as he was released, all of which makes it clear that he was not convicted of a particularly serious crime – so here is how DHS’ Assistant Chief Counsel portrayed the information our citizens and police had provided as to Audrius' good character in her appeal brief:
“Given Respondent’s propensity for a (sic) violence and disregard for law enforcement, the Respondent is clearly a danger to the community.”
How on earth did she get that from what was presented? More importantly: Why did she get that from what was presented?
On last point . . . The above quotes are just a very small sampling of the many statements people who knew Audrius have said about him. The most telling part of all this: I never knew most of these things about him until he was taken from us by ICE. I was chosen to be the front person on the campaign to bring him home and suddenly people began to call me with all these stories of how Audrius had done so much for them. Audrius himself . . . He never said a word about any of it. Digging further into Audrius’ life back in Lithuania while trying to make some sense of the immigration mess he has landed in I discovered that Audrius is a master of the understatement. What we had thought was incredible about the life he spoke of in Lithuania . . . That was nothing compared to what he really did - who he really was. The people who served with Audrius Kazenas in Lithuania speak of him far more highly than he speaks of himself. The people who have had the good fortune to know him here have many, many stories of his acts of courage and kindness as well. He never mentioned any of it.
Injustices happen, but thankfully, there are people like Audrius who are willing to put their very lives on the line to right those injustices. This man does not deserve what has happened to him. The people of our small NH community do deserve better from our government.
Why is a man with so much talent, so much ability – a man who speaks, reads and writes multiple languages fluently, is a former officer in the Lithuanian special forces, knows so much about the inner workings of the Russian military and speaks their special language, has experience fighting terrorists and critical knowledge of their activities, and who has been a constant, steadfast supporter of the United States – being wasted? Why is he being treated this way?
Why is Audrius sitting in a prison cell indefinitely for no crime while our country tries to send him back to possible torture and death after a federal Immigration Judge has granted him relief from deportation under the Convention Against Torture twice?!
Why are the statements, concerns and wishes of U.S. citizens whose roots trace back to the very beginnings of this country, and even our police, being completely ignored and even twisted in this matter?
I have faith in this country. I have faith in the institutions of this country. Audrius, and now his father as well, have strengthened that faith as I have learned from them just how much this country and its ideals were held in their hearts as they fought for their own independence. In his first letter to me, Rimgaudas Kazenas ended with these words: God bles Amerika. I didn’t need to wait for the translation to know what those words meant. Despite all of this – Audrius and Rimgaudas retain their faith in this country and its justice system. If those who are charged with maintaining that system of justice had the same faith, the facts and details of Audrius’ case would not have been so mangled and he would be free today. We could all learn much from Audrius Kazenas and his father. It is my prayer that they survive this latest battle to continue to provide those lessons.
|Hi. I am Deborah Sherman de Santos. My family and our community knew Audrius Kazenas for a number of years before he was taken by ICE and locked in a prison cell on immigration detention. We have stood by him through the years he has been held in that detention. He is greatly missed by us all.|
Experiencing Audrius Kazenas – and one does not just “know” the Kazenas family, their active sense of responsibility towards their fellow man makes them very much an experience – has been life-altering for me, equal in magnitude to my trip to Georgia in the 60s to work for Civil Rights. Audrius and his father, Rimgaudas Kazenas, were two of the many men who stood against the Soviet tanks on January 13, 1991 to free Lithuania for good. This was Lithuania’s “July 4th, 1776.” Getting to know and work with these men who believe so strongly in liberty that they will put their lives on the line over and over to secure it has been an education for me.
The last three years of helping Audrius survive what is being done to him have been horrific, it has even resulted in some members of law-enforcement publicly suggesting that I be shot for my attempts to uphold Audrius’ legal rights and openly attacking my attempts to get help for Audrius. For a time my family maintain an extreme level of vigilance because of this, my teenage son asked me wistfully if I remembered the days when we didn’t have to always check to see if a car was following us to the secluded back road where we live. Before this we didn't; before this we did not live behind drawn curtains and locked doors; before this we did not have to keep a loaded gun at the ready. Our local police have done what they can, but there is very little that they can do at this point since even they were contacted by DHS in an effort to intimidate a sergeant into withdrawing his official statement to the court on Audrius' behalf.
The strain has been immense. It has hurt us financially and negatively impacted my health, but I would not trade what I have gained from working to save Audrius for any amount of money or comfort. I am writing again, something I had not done for decades. I am deeply involved in working actively for human rights again. My teenage son, Naji, has grown into an incredibly responsible young man through all of this. Our whole family has found ways to grow and learn from what has happened - and we are honored to be part of the Kazenas family story – no matter how it turns out.
That said, the fact that I and my family have created something good out of what has been done to Audrius and what has even been done to us for having the audacity to try to help him, does not mean that what has been done is right, just, lawful or even excusable. This is the USA. This is not supposed to happen here!