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Tarhuni lawyer files lawsuit against FBI

Tigard man remains on No Fly List one month after fed hold

TIGARD - The Department of Justice has been asked to investigate the Portland FBI field office for the way it treated three Portland-area Muslims over the last several months, including a Tigard man who was barred from flying home from Libya in January.

Jamal Tarhuni - the 55-year-old Tigard man who was stranded in Libya after being placed on the federal No Fly List - is one of three Portland-area Muslims who claim they were unjustly placed on that list by the FBI.

On Monday, Tarhuni's lawyer Tom Nelson sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility requesting a formal investigation into the Portland FBI field office and U.S. Attorney's Office, which he says put Tarhuni and others on the No Fly list in order to force his compliance. Nelson said he also planned to file a federal lawsuit against the agencies within the next few months.

'Jamal was put on the list not because he was a risk to the airline or to the traveling public, but because they wanted to coerce him,' Nelson told The Times on Monday.

Tarhuni was in Libya delivering medical supplies for Tigard-based Medical Teams International. When he attempted to board a flight home in Tunisia, he was asked to meet an unnamed government agency before he would be allowed to fly home.

Tarhuni said he was questioned by the FBI about his religious beliefs, the Portland mosque he attends, and whether he had met with Islamic extremists while in Libya. Tarhuni said he was asked to take a polygraph test and sign away his Miranda rights.

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

'Fear...will become commonplace'

Nelson said the alleged actions raise 'profound questions' regarding the proper role of FBI agents and, by extension, the attorneys in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Portland.

'The Portland FBI office's resort to this new coercive technique - placing American citizens on the 'no-fly' list once separated from their families - is troubling in the extreme,' Nelson wrote, saying the men were told they could fly home if they submitted to an interview and surrendered their constitutional rights.

'The fear is that, like enhanced interrogation techniques, it will become commonplace,' Nelson wrote.

In the letter, Nelson described what happened to Tarhuni, as well as two other Portland men, Mustafa Elogbi, who was able to return home from Libya in February, and a third man who remains overseas after he refused to become an FBI informant. It also mentions Masjed As-Saber, the Islamic Center of Portland the three men attend.

'We are doing everything we can think of,' Nelson said. 'We will pursue it very vigorously.'

Still unable to fly

Despite being allowed to fly back to Portland, Tarhuni said his travel privileges have not been restored.

He was barred from boarding a flight to Seattle earlier this month, he said, and was forced to travel by train to business trips in Minnesota and Washington, D.C.

'One never knows if you are on the list or off,' Nelson explained. 'The only way to find out if you are on the list is to put down money for a ticket, go to the airport and try to get your boarding pass and then wait and find out if you get a ticket or not. Jamal's recent experience highlights that.'

Nelson said the treatment of Tarhuni and others have galvanized the Muslim community.

'Previously, when there was some other law enforcement occasion, they had a tendency to go quiet, to go silent and hope nothing further happened,' Nelson said. 'The feeling now is that the FBI stepped way over the line, and they are willing to stand up and say something and say that this is not acceptable.'

The Portland FBI field office has declined to comment.