Detained Va. teen set to return to U.S.
By Peter Finn,
A Virginia teenager who was placed on the no-fly list and barred from returning home to the United States from Kuwait is expected to arrive at Dulles International Airport on Friday morning, a government lawyer said.
Gulet Mohamed, a 19-year-old U.S. citizen from Alexandria, was detained in Kuwait last month at the behest of the United States, according to his attorneys. They allege that Mohamed was beaten by Kuwaiti officials who questioned him about his travels in Yemen and Somalia after he left the United States in March 2009.
Mohamed's family said he went overseas to study Arabic and Islam, stayed only a few weeks in Yemen, and then lived with relatives in Somalia and Kuwait. They said he has no connection with extremists.
Gadeir Abbas, a staff attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations who is representing Mohamed, said that FBI agents also tried to question the teenager despite the fact that he told them he wanted his American attorneys present for any interrogation.
Civil liberties groups allege that Mohamed's case is part of a pattern in which American citizens are barred from flying to the United States so they can be questioned by U.S. agents while overseas and without counsel.
Mohamed's attorneys sued Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, Terrorist Screening Center Director Timothy Healy and their respective agencies in federal court in Alexandria. They alleged that Mohamed's 14th Amendment right to reside in the United States and to reenter the country from abroad was being violated. And they asked U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga to order the government to allow Mohamed to return home.
Justice Department lawyer Paul Freeborne told the judge that Mohamed would be taken from a Kuwait detention center Thursday and allowed onto the flight from Kuwait to Washington.
The judge said he did not need to issue an order, given the government's statement, but said he would hold a hearing Friday if Mohamed was not allowed to leave.
Mohamed is the youngest of seven children in a family that fled Somalia when he was a baby. He became a U.S. citizen about five years ago, family members said.
"I'm very happy with the decision," his mother, Bella Ali, said outside the courtroom.
Abbas said he might sue the U.S. government for violating Mohamed's rights by orchestrating his detention and attempting to question him without an attorney present.
A State Department spokesman said this month that Mohamed was not detained at the behest of the United States.