(WASHINGTON, D.C., 6/16/10) — A prominent national Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization today released a letter it sent to Attorney General Eric Holder calling for the return to the United States of American Muslim citizens barred from returning home from trips overseas and subjected to FBI pressure tactics that are being called a form of “extraordinary rendition.”
[“Extraordinary rendition” is the illegal practice of handing suspects to foreign governments knowing they will face harsh treatment or even torture during interrogations.]
The New York Times today profiled an American Muslim from Virginia who is currently in legal limbo in Egypt after being subjected to repeated FBI interrogations and placed on a no-fly list.
SEE: American Man in Limbo on No-Fly List (NY Times)
In his letter to Holder, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad described the pressure exerted on the Virginia Muslim and on others in similar circumstances:
“His passport was confiscated and FBI agents have subjected him to at least eight interrogations, despite assertion of his constitutional right to remain silent as advised by his attorney. He has been explicitly told that he is on the no-fly list, and he has been pressured to submit to a polygraph test.
“After a polygraph test on June 8, he was allegedly told by an agent that, based on his answers, he would ‘never see the United States or your family again’ unless he ‘rethought’ his answers. Subsequently, he says he has been pressured by the FBI to spy on the American Muslim
community when and if he is allowed to return to the United States.
“…He was informed that despite being cleared to travel, he cannot use American or Canadian airspace. When he asked how he could return to the United States without being able to board a plane, he was allegedly informed that “Christopher Columbus did not ride on a plane” to come to America…
“We are concerned that FBI interrogations of American citizens in a condition of forced exile are being conducted without due process and using techniques that amount to a form of ‘rendition.’
“The use of apparently illegal pressure tactics flies in the face of President Obama’s commitment to abandon unconstitutional policies instituted under the previous administration.
“If the FBI wishes to question American citizens, they should be allowed to return to the United States where they will be able to maintain their constitutional rights free of threats or intimidation.
“We are also deeply concerned that this apparent targeting of American Muslims not only infringes on constitutional rights, but also sends the message that Muslims are second class citizens and that the due process of law does not apply to them.
“I therefore respectfully request that your office investigate these incidents and take whatever remedial actions are necessary based on the results of that investigation. I would also request that the U.S. Department of Justice allow all American citizens to return to the United States, and, if there are any reasons to charge or investigate particular individuals, to do so once they are in their country of birth.
“American Muslims are firmly committed to our nation’s safety and security. We applaud your efforts to protect America while defending the rights of all citizens, regardless of religion, ethnicity or national origin.”
At CAIR’s news conference today on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., the Virginia Muslim’s 19-year-old brother described how he too was stopped by the FBI in Egypt, faced repeated FBI interrogations, was allegedly interrogated by a man claiming to be with the “CIA,” and was blindfolded and chained to a wall in an Egyptian police facility for several days. During his detention, he says he was assaulted and subjected to sleep deprivation.
SEE: Statement of Yusuf Wehelie
At the news conference, CAIR outlined similar current cases involving American Muslim citizens.
SEE: Cases of American Muslim Barred from Returning to U.S.
More U.S. Muslims Facing Problems in Return from Abroad (Wash. Post)
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail: email@example.com; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, 202-341-4171, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org