A federal judge in Alexandria dismissed a lawsuit filed by a 19-year-old Northern Virginia teenager against federal officials he accused of unfairly putting him on the government’s no-fly list and barring his return to the U.S. from Kuwait.
Gulet Mohamed of Alexandria was detained in Kuwait in December at the behest of the United States, according to his lawyers. They allege that Mohamed was beaten by Kuwait officials and questioned about his travels in Somalia and Yemen.
Mohamed, a U.S. citizen born in Somalia, said he went overseas to study Islam and Arabic and stayed with relatives while there.
Mohamed’s lawyer Gadeir Abbas, who works for the Council on American Islamic Relations, said FBI agents also tried to question his client while he was detained in Kuwait even though the teenager told them he wanted his American lawyers present for any interrogation.
After Mohamed was detained and held, his lawyers sued Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, and Terrorist Screening Center Director Timothy Healy and their respective agencies in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria. In January, Mohamed returned from Kuwait and Friday made his first court appearance.
The U.S. sought to have the case dismissed, arguing that it was moot given that Mohamed had returned to the U.S.
In a five-page written order, U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga said Mohamed’s complaint “fails to state a claim,” noting that it was “less than clear concerning the scope of the challenges that [Mohamed] is making, particularly now that he has re-entered the U.S.”
Trenga also said it was“unclear under what cause of action [Mohamed] is contending that the alleged act of placing him initially on the no-fly list deprived him of a specific constitutional or statutory right.”
From the bench, Trenga advised Mohamed’s lawyers to re-file their complaint with more details, including what legal rights Mohamed’s lawyers believe were violated.
In his original lawsuit, Mohamed said he was detained and beaten by Kuwait authorities. On Friday, after the hearing he described his torture, saying he was made to lay flat on a floor “on his belly” while he was “whipped” on the bottoms of his feet. He said he was beaten on the palms of his hands, hung for hours tied up by his hands and fed white rice and water.
“When I asked for a lawyer they smacked me,” he said, with his family members standing nearby outside the federal courthouse in Alexandria. Since then, he said, he’s had flashbacks of the incident.
“I want to clear my name,” he said.
The State Department had previously said the U.S. government had no role in Mohamed’s initial detention.