A Muslim civil rights group wants the Justice Department to investigate the tactics of FBI agents in Portland, Oregon, after two Libyan-Americans from the area recently were barred from returning to the United States.
The two men – Jamal Tarhuni, 55, and Mustafa Elogbi, 60 – traveled separately to Libya after the overthrow of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Tarhuni delivered humanitarian supplies with the group Medical Teams International, while Elogbi went to visit family.
Last month, though, both Libyan-born U.S. citizens were barred from return flights to the U.S. and told the FBI wanted to question them.
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations said that it has now received three reports of Portland FBI agents’ involvement in travel restrictions for Muslim U.S. citizens in the last six months. The other case involved a man who made headlines last year when he was detained in Britain as he tried to travel to Italy.
Tarhuni was stopped in Tunisia, where he says he was questioned by a Portland-based FBI agent. Tarhuni said he initially agreed to the questioning that delved into his religious practices but stopped the interview after he was strapped to a lie detector and asked to waive his Miranda rights.
Elogbi got as far as a connecting flight in London before being sent back to Tunisia. He was held in a British jail for two days and told by British authorities that the U.S. government was preventing him from flying home.
Elogbi said his situation is especially insulting because he went to Libya to celebrate the demise of a regime that quashed citizens’ liberty. “Now I find myself like in the times of Gadhafi, put in jail for no reason,” Elogbi said in a telephone interview from Tripoli. “That is humiliation for an American citizen. I cannot accept it.”
See also CAIR press release, 7 February 2012