updated 10/18/2007 7:27:37 PM ET 2007-10-18T23:27:37

Citing "a sliver of jurisdiction," a federal judge on Thursday ordered authorities to release an immigrant from Sierra Leone who has been jailed nearly a year while fighting accusations another judge ruled were unfounded.

U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez ordered immigration officials to allow Samuel Komba Kambo, a former energy minister in his west African country, to post bond while they appeal an immigration judge's ruling.

Noncitizens like Kambo, who has been living in Texas on valid visas for 14 years, are subject to broad discretion by the Justice Department under post-Sept. 11 detention laws. They can be jailed during the prolonged appeals process that typically keeps cases in immigration court and the Board of Immigration Appeals for years before they can reach the federal court system.

Congress and some previous court rulings have chipped away at federal judges' power to intervene before immigration court appeals are exhausted, but Rodriguez said Thursday that he found "a sliver of jurisdiction given the facts of the case" to grant Kambo's request to post bond.

Rodriguez ordered Kambo be allowed to post the $12,500 bond set by an immigration judge months ago. His family hoped to do so on Thursday afternoon.

"I feel like the world's load has been lifted off my head," said Kambo's wife, Hanaan, who has been raising their four children alone for the last year. "It's a wonderful day."

Accused of being involved in executions
The government sought to deport Kambo, a fuels analyst for a central Texas utility, after the U.S. State Department accused him of being involved in the summary executions of 29 counter-revolutionaries in his home country.

Kambo, who was part of a government that took power in a bloodless coup in 1992, has denied any involvement in the killings, and an immigration judge ruled that there was no credible evidence that Kambo had any role in creating or orchestrating the suppression of counter-revolutionaries.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Anderson said Thursday that federal authorities still believe the immigration judge's finding in Kambo's case was wrong.

They have appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, which could revoke Kambo's bond and overturn the immigration judge's ruling that Kambo should receive permanent U.S. residency.

Kambo, who has an MBA from the University of Texas and lives in Austin with his family, was taken into custody in October 2006 during what he thought was a routine green card interview. Despite rulings from an immigration judge that the government lacked evidence he participated in the killings and that he should be released, Kambo remained in lockup while ICE appealed.

Family's savings depleted
In an interview with The Associated Press last week, he said the prolonged incarceration had forced his family to use up their savings and give up their health insurance as they struggled to pay their mortgage.

Kambo could have been released without Rodriguez's order if he voluntarily agreed to leave the United States, but he and his wife have four U.S.-born children, ages 4-13, and they decided to fight to ensure their children could be educated here.

Hanaan Kambo said the judge's order releasing her husband was almost surreal after nearly a year of disappointed hopes.

"Finally, we got it," she said, raising her palms in the courtroom. "Thank God, justice has been served."

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