An Eritrean-born American citizen has filed suit against the FBI, alleging the agency was responsible for having him detained and tortured for years in an Arab country for refusing to become an informant in his mosque in Portland, Oregon.
As reported by Britain’s Guardian newspaper, Yonas Fikre, 36, was recently flown back to Portland from Switzerland in a luxury private jet fully expecting FBI agents to be waiting for him. But there were none.
Rather, Fikre was instead met by a U.S. immigration official who boarded the aircraft and asked him only for his passport. After he handed over the document – which was only valid for a single flight into the United States – the officer said that everything was in order and that he was free to go.
“I don’t think they knew who I was. I think they thought I was just some rich guy who’d come on a private jet. A rapper or someone,” said Fikre.
Some five years ago, he says, his odyssey began as nothing more than a business trip, but which landed him in an Arab prison “where he alleges he was tortured at the behest of U.S. anti-terrorism officials” for refusing to become an informant.
His suit names the FBI in general, two of its agents in particular and other American officials for, he claims, putting him on the U.S. terrorist “no-fly list,” in order to pressure him to give into their demands.
The suit says when that tactic failed, however, the FBI arranged to have him arrested, interrogated and tortured for 106 days at a prison in UAE.
‘It gives them a tool to coerce Muslims’
The Guardian further reported:
As shocking as the claims are, they are not the first to emanate from worshippers at Fikre’s mosque in Portland, where at least nine members have been barred from flying by the U.S. authorities.
“The no-fly list gives the FBI an extrajudicial tool to coerce Muslims to become informants,” Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer who represents other clients on the list, told the paper. “There’s definitely a cluster of cases like this at the FBI’s Portland office.”
Included on that list is Jamal Tarhuni, 58, a Portland-area businessman who traveled to Libya with a Christian charity, Medical Teams International, in 2012. He was also barred from reentering the U.S. and summarily questioned by an FBI agent who pressured him to sign a document that waived his constitutional rights.
“The no-fly list is being used to intimidate and coerce people – not for protection, but instead for aggression,” Tarhuni said, after finally getting back to Portland a month later. It took a federal lawsuit to get his name removed from the list in February.
And Michael Migliore, another mosque member, chose to move to Italy to live with his mother; he was placed on the no-fly list after he refused to answer questions from the FBI without a lawyer and become a mosque informant.
“We have a name for it: Proxy detention”
He was forced to take a train to New York and then board a ship to England. While there, he was further detained under anti-terror legislation; he said his British attorney told him the detention was at the request of U.S. officials.
“We have a name for it: Proxy detention,” Abbas, Migliore’s lawyer, told the Guardian. “It’s something the FBI does regularly. It’s not uncommon for American Muslims to travel outside the US and find they can’t fly back and then they get approached by law enforcement to answer questions at the behest of the Americans.”
The paper further reported:
Fikre’s problems began not long after he travelled to Khartoum to set up an electronics import business. He still had relatives in Sudan after his family fled there when he was a child to escape conflict in Eritrea. Fikre’s family arrived to California as refugees when he was 13 and he moved to Portland in 2006 where he worked for a mobile phone company.
Shortly after arriving in Khartoum in June 2010, he then went to the U.S. embassy to get advice from the commercial section. A few days later, he was asked to come back for what he was told was a briefing for American citizens on the security situation.
Instead, he became entangled in a web of espionage the FBI created, though he refused steadfastly to cooperate.
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