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Tigard man sues feds over no fly list, interrogation

Jamal Tarhuni was stuck in North Africa for a month


by: SUBMITTED PHOTO. - Jamal Tarhuni of Tigard, shown here with his attorney Tom Nelson, has sued the federal government for placing him on the no-fly list during his humanitarian trip to Libya. He was prevented from returning home in January 2012, and is suing for $1 million and to restore his travel rights.The 56-year-old Tigard man who was banned from flying home from Libya last year is suing the federal government for violating his constitutional rights.

Jamal Tarhuni made headlines a year ago after he was placed on the Terrorism Screening Center’s no-fly list, stranding him for months overseas while on a humanitarian mission in Libya.

Attorneys representing Tarhuni, a naturalized U.S. citizen who immigrated to American more than 38 years ago, filed a lawsuit Jan. 11 in Portland’s U.S. District Court, claiming the government violated Tarhuni’s civil and constitutional rights.

In his lawsuit, Tarhuni wants the government to pay $1 million, restore his travel rights and make a declaration that he was wrongfully placed on the no-fly list.

The lawsuit also seeks damages from FBI Special Agent Brian Zinn and State Department legal attache Horace Thomas, the two federal agents who Tarhuni says interrogated him for hours after he was prohibited from boarding a plane in Tunisia in January 2012.

Also included in the lawsuit are U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Federal Bureau of Investigations Director Robert Mueller, and the bureau’s Terrorist Screening Center director, Timothy Healthy.

Tarhuni was in Libya doing humanitarian work for months after the fall of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The former furniture store owner’s name was added to the no-fly list as he worked to deliver medical supplies for Tigard’s Medical Teams International, a Christian nonprofit group that provides medical equipment around the world.

On Jan. 17, 2012, Tarhuni attempted to board a plane to the United States, but was told he wasn’t allowed to fly. Tarhuni spoke with the American Embassy, who said that “personnel from some undisclosed U.S. agency” wanted to interview him.

Tarhuni, a Sunni Muslim who worships at Masjed As-Saber, the Islamic Center of Portland, was questioned by the FBI about his religious beliefs, the mosque he attends, and whether he had met with Islamic extremists during his trip, he alleges.

Tarhuni says he was asked to take a polygraph test and sign away his Miranda rights.

“After a break,” according to the lawsuit, “Zinn told (Tarhuni) that if everything he said was true, in order to return to his family, there was one thing he had to do: take a polygraph test.”

Tarhuni agreed, but was then asked to sign a waiver, which would have removed “a number of his constitutional rights,” the lawsuit claims.

After he refused, Tarhuni was stranded in Libya for a month.

Tarhuni’s story made national headlines, and he was eventually allowed to come home. Tarhuni says his situation hasn’t gotten any better.

When he was allowed to travel home, customs agents in Portland confiscated his camera and cellphone and copied all the paperwork he had with him.

“I was intimidated, humiliated, insulted, deprived of my basic rights, stripped of my right to travel back to my country under the so-called ‘no-fly list,’ ” he told reporters the day he arrived. “The no-fly list is being used to intimidate and coerce people. It is being used not for protection but instead for aggression.”

Since being home, Tarhuni has attempted to continue his humanitarian work with Medical Teams International, but said he is unable to travel abroad on humanitarian and business trips to Libya.

In March 2012, he was forced to travel to Minnesota by train to represent the organization. He also had to drive to meetings and speaking engagements in Washington, D.C., and Seattle.

The FBI has refused to comment on Tarhuni’s situation, citing federal privacy rights which restrict the agency from discussing possible investigations and lawsuits.

Tarhuni claims the FBI’s interview violated his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, and his right to legal counsel as well as the 14th Amendment rights to due-process.

Tarhuni isn’t the only Portland-area Muslim who has faced problems with the FBI. Three members of the Portland mosque have been placed on the no-fly list and said they were pressured by agents to provide information about their mosque and their activities abroad.

The mosque’s imam, Sheikh Mohamed Abdirahman Kariye, is also on the no-fly list and one of several plaintiffs in a lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union filed against the U.S. government.




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