A Muslim civil rights group plans to ask for a federal Justice Department investigation into the treatment of a Muslim U.S. Air Force veteran who recently returned to Oklahoma.
Adam Soltani, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Oklahoma City, said a news conference regarding the issue is set for 11 a.m. Thursday at the CAIR-OK office.
Soltani said that the veteran, Saadiq Long, alleges that since his return to Oklahoma, he and his family have been subjected to repeated unwanted encounters with federal law enforcement authorities, including being handcuffed and detained at gunpoint. He and his sister are scheduled to appear at the news conference.
“It's almost surreal for him as to why they would do this to him and his family,” Soltani said. “Unfortunately, his life has been flipped upside down.”
Long, a McAlester native, returned from the Middle East to Oklahoma on Nov. 19, after apparently being placed on the U.S. government's “no-fly” list.
Long, 43, had made several attempts to return to the United States to visit his terminally ill mother, who lives in McAlester. Long has lived in the Middle East since 2000, where he teaches English in Qatar.
Long was prevented from boarding a flight to the U.S. in April and was told that he needed to get in touch with the U.S. Embassy. He has said embassy officials told him to contact the Transportation Security Administration, but he received no answers from that agency about why he was placed on the government's “no-fly” list. The FBI at the time would not confirm or deny whether Long was on the government's “no-fly” list.
Interrogation in Detroit
Soltani said Long was questioned by federal officials when he arrived in Detroit from Qatar on Nov. 19, but he was not surprised by the interrogation because of his previous failed attempts to return to the U.S. Soltani said CAIR officials also were not shocked by the interrogation because it has happened to other American Muslims.
“That's something we kind of expected,” he said. “But it wasn't anything compared to what happened when he got home.”
Soltani said an FBI agent arrived at Long's mother's McAlester home the day after Long arrived there. Soltani said Long asked that family members give any FBI agents the phone number of his attorney and CAIR-OK officials. Soltani said neither he nor Long's attorney has been contacted by FBI officials to date.
FBI spokesman Ricky Rains in Oklahoma City declined to comment.
Soltani said Long and his sister, Ava Anderson, of Oklahoma City, noticed that they were being followed several times while driving around McAlester. Soltani said when his sister was set to return back to her Oklahoma City home the day after Thanksgiving, he decided to go with her, but he laid in the back of her car thinking that she would not be followed.
Soltani said Anderson noticed that several cars following behind her began flashing their lights and she surmised that she was being requested to pull over. Soltani said Anderson decided it would be safer to pull over in front of the local police station, so she drove there. Soltani said when Anderson arrived, McAlester police surrounded the vehicle and she was ordered out of the car at gunpoint. Soltani said Anderson told the officers that her brother was in the back seat and then Long held his hands up as he got out of the car as well. Both Long and his sister were handcuffed by the police after exiting the vehicle, Soltani said.
Soltani said Long said he was confused because the FBI never tried to talk to him during this encounter, but only approached his sister. Soltani said local police officials allowed Long and his sister to leave after the police explained to Anderson that the FBI was seeking to talk to her.
“Our speculation is that it is a form of intimidation,” Soltani said. “Our fear is that it may not be the end. That's why we're calling for the investigation.”
Soltani said Long is now concerned for the safety of his family both in Oklahoma and in Qatar.
“Saadiq and his family and us here at CAIR are just looking for answers,” he said.
Contributing: The Associated Press