German Muslim held, denied US entry

A German businessman of Syrian descent who wanted to surprise his daughter with a holiday visit was detained for four days in a Las Vegas holding cell before being sent back home without explanation. A civil rights group called authorities’ treatment of Majed Shehadeh a case of anti-Muslim discrimination.

Shehadeh touched down Thursday afternoon on a direct Condor Airlines flight to McCarran International Airport, where his American wife was waiting to pick him up. The couple had planned to visit family in the Las Vegas area, before surprising their daughter for the New Year and celebrating her wedding anniversary in Central California.

“I gave them my German passport, and he looked to see which countries I visited. He found I had stamps that looked like Arabic and asked if they were fake,” Shehadeh said Tuesday in a phone interview from his home in Alzenau, a small Bavarian village. “Nobody ever informed me why I was being questioned,” he said. “All that was ever told to me was this had to do with Washington.”

After being interrogated by Border Protection and FBI agents for more than 12 hours at the airport, Shehadeh said he was handcuffed and transported in the back of police car to a North Las Vegas jail. Once in the holding facility, Shehadeh said he was stripped of his shoes, jacket and prescribed heart medicine and locked in a cell with about 25 other detainees. There was one toilet in the middle of the room, and access to a telephone was extremely limited, he said. On Sunday, he was released and sent back to Frankfurt on the same charter airline.

Associated Press, 2 January 2007

See also CAIR news brief, 2 January 2007