Iraqi pas­sen­gers sue air­line

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Au­drey Hud­son and Sara A. Carter

A group of Iraqi Pen­tagon con­trac­tors is su­ing Amer­i­can Air­lines claim­ing racial dis­crim­i­na­tion for de­lay­ing its flight, but a po­lice re­port shows that some of the men might have been in­tox­i­cated, be­haved in a fright­en­ing and bel­liger­ent man­ner and scared one fam­ily off the plane.

The cap­tain of Amer­i­can Air­lines Flight 590 from San Diego to Chicago de­layed the late-night Aug. 28 take­off af­ter crew mem­bers re­ported that they “did not feel safe,” ac­cord­ing to the re­port ob­tained by The Wash­ing­ton Times.

The Iraqi men filed the law­suit two weeks ago in the U.S. Dis­trict Court of the East­ern Dis­trict of Michi­gan, where they live, say­ing they were falsely iden­ti­fied as “pos­ing a risk to se­cu­rity by reliance on racial pro­fil­ing and through dis­crim­i­na­tion based on race and na­tional ori­gin.”

The cap­tain did not alert the pas­sen­gers to any dan­ger and in­stead said the plane had to re­turn to the gate be­cause of an 11:30 p.m. air­port cur­few.

The men left the plane with the other pas­sen­gers, but the law­suit says they were sin­gled out and re­moved from the flight be­cause they spoke to one an­other in Ara­bic.

Once inside the gate area, the law­suit states, the men “were pulled aside from a crowd of roughly 120 pas­sen­gers as ‘per­sons of sus­pi­cion’ in­ap­pro­pri­ately thought to pose a threat to se­cu­rity.”

How­ever, a Port of San Diego po­lice of­fi­cer re­ported that he was first ap­proached by one of the men, Dave Al-Watan, “who asked me what the prob­lem was.”

The of­fi­cer said in his re­port that Mr. Al-Watan had “red, wa­tery eyes and had the odor of an al­co­holic bev­er­age on his breath.” An­other of­fi­cer who ap­proached the group said he smelled al­co­hol but could not pin­point who might have been drink­ing.

Mr. Al-Watan raised his voice to the of­fi­cers and asked whether the flight had been de­layed “be­cause we are from Iraq? Is that why we were re­moved from the plane?”

Turn­ing to the pas­sen­gers, Mr. AlWatan con­tin­ued in a loud voice: “I am an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen, and I work for the Marines. Just leave us off the plane, tell the other peo­ple they can fly with­out us if that’s what they want.

“I want a re­port. This is Amer­ica. You can’t treat peo­ple like this. I am go­ing to sue the air­lines,” Mr. AlWatan said.

Tim Smith, a spokesman for Amer­i­can Air­lines, said the com­pany stands by the flight crew’s ac­tions and that the plane re­turned to the gate “be­cause of po­ten­tial se­cu­rity is­sues.”

“The crew felt it was bet­ter, and safer, for all the pas­sen­gers to re­turn to the gate to re­solve is­sues oc­cur­ring on­board, rather than let­ting any sit­u­a­tion po­ten­tially es­ca­late in-flight,” Mr. Smith said.

The men were per­mit­ted to fly home on the air­line the next day.

The law­suit says the men suf­fered dam­ages in the form of “em­bar­rass­ment, hu­mil­i­a­tion and mor­ti­fi­ca­tion; fright and shock; men­tal an­guish and emo­tional dis­tress; de­nial of so­cial plea­sure and en­joy­ments; ac­tual mone­tary dam­ages in the form of costs as­so­ci­ated with travel de­lay.”

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