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An asylum applicant alleging past persecution has the burden of establishing that (1) his treatment rises to the level of persecution; (2) the persecution was on account of one or more protected grounds; and (3) the persecution was committed by the government, or by forces that the government was unable or unwilling to control.
Armen Baghdasaryan ("Baghdasaryan") is a native and citizen of Armenia. Baghdasaryan was threatened, harassed, fined, detained, and beaten because he opposed the systemic government corruption, including the extortion of bribes, perpetrated by General H. Hakopian, a powerful politician and government official. The Immigration Judge's ("IJ") denied his application for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture ("CAT"). The BIA dismissed Baghdasaryan’s appeal for failure to establish a nexus between his mistreatment and a protected ground pursuant to 8 U.S.C.S. § 1101(a)(42)(A).
Did BIA err in concluding that Baghdasaryan was not eligible for asylum because Baghdasaryan failed to demonstrate that his mistreatment was motivated by an imputed political opinion?
The court held that substantial evidence did not support the BIA's conclusion that a general, an Armenian government official, mistreated Baghdasaryan merely because of a personal dispute. Rather, the evidence would have compelled a reasonable factfinder to conclude that Baghdasaryan was mistreated because of a political opinion imputed to him. He was a whistle-blower whose opposition to the general's corruption qualified as a political opinion. The general was engaged in systemic government corruption given the participation in petitioner's mistreatment of various government actors. The BIA concluded that Baghdasaryan was only a "victim of criminal misconduct." The court found that the evidence showed that Baghdasaryan was mistreated by the militia, security service, the tax authority, and criminal investigators. Thus, a reasonable factfinder would have been compelled to find that the Armenian government mistreated petitioner on account of his political opinion, as expressed through his opposition to government corruption.