Lawyers for Gulet Mohamed, 19, argued in their lawsuit filed in US District Court in Alexandria that placing Mohamed on the no-fly list without due process violates his constitutional rights. A judge immediately scheduled a hearing on Mohamed’s case for Tuesday afternoon.
“The United States is depriving Mr. Mohamed of perhaps the most basic prerogative of American citizenship: the right to reside within the United States,” wrote Nadhira F. Al-Khalili and Gadeir Abbas with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is representing Mohamed and has complained on behalf of other Muslim Americans in similar circumstances.
Mohamed was born in Somalia but is a naturalized US citizen who immigrated at age 3 and most recently lived in the Alexandria area. In March of 2009, Mohamed travelled to Yemen and Somalia, where he still has family, to learn Arabic. He stayed in those countries for just a few months and settled in Kuwait in August 2009, where he lived with an uncle.
In December, when he applied for a routine visa extension, he was arrested by plainclothes agents and claims he was beaten and tortured. Interrogators whipped his feet and threatened run electrical current through his genitals, Mohamed says.
The interrogators wanted to know about his time in Yemen and asked numerous questions about radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, an American who is hiding in Yemen and is believed to be a top al-Qaida recruiter. Mohamed denies that he any contact with terrorists.
Mohamed says he was twice questioned by FBI agents, who told him that he would remain in Kuwaiti detention indefinitely if he continued to insist on having his lawyer present for questioning.
Mohamed alleges that his detention in Kuwait is entirely at the behest of the US government. In fact, he claims the Kuwaiti government tried to deport Mohamed Monday, but US officials would not let him on the plane because he is on the no-fly list.
CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said Tuesday Mohamed “is just sitting in detention because they wouldn’t let him get on the plane.”
The council has represented others who found themselves in similar legal limbo because they are on the no-fly list. The group alleges that FBI uses such status as an excuse to try to interrogate Americans on foreign soil where they are isolated from friends and family and less likely to assert their legal rights.
In July, CAIR successfully advocated for Yahya Wehelie, 26, of Burke, Virginia, who was stuck in Egypt and faced aggressive interrogations while he was on the no-fly list. After weeks of delay, Wehelie was eventually allowed to return to the US.
Tuesday’s lawsuit names Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller as defendants. A call to an FBI spokeswoman seeking comment Tuesday was not immediately returned.
The Department of Justice said in a statement that it would not comment on the specific allegations in the lawsuit, but defended the way it adds people to the no-fly list.
“As a general matter, the process used to add anyone to the consolidated terrorist watchlist involves multiple layers of interagency vetting,” the statement said. “At the same time, the federal government has well-established redress procedures in place for those seeking relief from adverse effects that may be related to watchlist screening. Today’s watchlisting process serves our overall counterterrorism efforts while preserving the civil liberties of all Americans.”
The Pope is said to be recovering from a lung inflammation
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