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Local family fearing for life of political activist who could be deported to Niger

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- A citizen of Niger living in Greensboro could be facing deportation after being arrested by ICE – Homeland Security Investigations; a move his family says could lead to his death.

The man in question is 56-year-old Ali Marounfa, also known as Ali Tera.

Family and friends say Marounfa is a vocal critic of Niger’s government and their management of the country’s resources and finances, who uses social media to present his opinions. They add that he’s lived in the United States for 25 years, was married and now has two teenage daughters, who were born and raised in Greensboro.

“I’m just begging them to please release him, because they might kill him or torture him when he goes back to Niger,” said one of his daughters, Kadi Maiga.

ICE – Homeland Security Investigations Southern Regional Director of Communications Bryan Cox confirmed to FOX8 that the agency arrested Marounfa on Friday, June 16. Cox tells FOX8 the agency cannot discuss the particulars of Marounfa’s case because it’s an ongoing investigation, adding that there is the potential for federal charges against him.

“That’s somebody who believes in free speech and freedom here in the United States,” said Kassoumi Zibo, a friend of Marounfa’s, who was joined by dozens of others outside of Sen. Thom Tillis’ High Point office Monday morning. “He’d been denouncing the corruption, the dictatorship, the embezzlement.”

Marounfa is currently listed as a federal detainee at the Forsyth County Detention Center, with no bond allowed - which is the standard for any federal inmate - according to jail officials.

While ICE – Homeland Security Investigations could not comment on Marounfa’s status as it pertains to him being in the United States, ICE detainers are usually only issued for people who are living in the country without legal status, sources say.

“He’s been raising the people’s conscience,” Zibo said, of the citizens of Niger.

It would not be left to ICE – Homeland Security Investigations to decide if Marounfa would be deported back to Niger. Instead, that would be left to a federal immigration judge.

Marounfa’s case is currently listed as pending a bond hearing.

“He can be killed. For sure,” Zibo said, speculating as to what would happen should he be sent back to Niger. “Everybody here will agree with me that he can be killed.”

Any person arrested for an immigration violation cannot be removed from the country without going through the legal process and going in front of a federal immigration judge. It is possible that the judge could grant said persons some sort of legal status, allowing them to stay in the United States, Cox said.

“We all know that the government, the president of [Niger], badly need this guy and to shut his mouth up,” Zibo said.