New York April 24, 2014- In a lawsuit filed in New York on Tuesday, four Muslim men who are United States residents accused the FBI of using their “no-fly” list as a tactic to pressure them to serve as informants by reporting on other Muslims in their communities. The plaintiffs also allege that they were either placed or kept on the no-fly list as punishment for their refusal to become informants.
One of the plaintiffs, Jameel Algibhah, lives in the Bronx and used to visit his wife and children in Yemen several times a year. The lawsuit claims that the FBI made several attempts in 2009 to recruit Algibhah as an informant, including asking him “to attend certain mosques, to act ‘extremist,’ and to participate in online Islamic forums and report back to the FBI agents,” as written in the lawsuit. After Algibhah refused to comply with these repeated requests, he realized that he was on the no-fly list in 2010.
The lawsuit claims that an agent said “that he would take Mr. Algibhah off of the No Fly List in one week’s time should their present conversation ‘go well’ and should Mr. Algibhah work for them.”
Muhammad Tanvir, an additional plaintiff who lives in Queens, experienced similar treatment from the FBI. Tanvir alleges that after his passport was taken by authorities following a trip to Pakistan, the FBI implored him several times in 2008 to become an informant. The lawsuit stated, “…the FBI agents threatened Mr. Tanvir, warning him that if he declined to work as an informant, then he would not receive his passport and that if he tried to pick up his passport at the airport he would be deported to Pakistan.”
Tanvir said that in 2010 he was informed that he was not allowed to fly, and that the FBI would only assist him in being removed from the list “in exchange for relaying information about his community”.
Plaintiff Naveed Shinwari is a Connecticut resident who had also refused the FBI’s prompts in 2012 to become an informant. After his refusal and several interrogations, Shinwari alleges he was placed on the no-fly list. He was able to board a flight this year, but he is unsure if he is still on the list or was merely given a one-time waiver.
Plaintiff Awais Sajjad, a New York resident, alleges in the complaint that he was interrogated at the John F. Kennedy International Airport while attempting to fly to Pakistan to visit family. Sajjad said he was informed that he was on the no-fly list and was offered a job as an informant for the FBI. After he refused, he was subjected to additional interrogation and a polygraph exam. Sajjad alleges that he was told that he’d failed the polygraph exam, and that he would only receive assistance to be removed from the no-fly list if he submitted to another polygraph exam and more questioning.
All four of the men have neither been accused or found guilty of being a threat to flight safety.
The lawsuit stated that the plaintiffs have all suffered from disruptions in their family and work life due to being placed on the no-fly list. “Plaintiffs are among the many innocent people who find themselves swept up in the United States government’s secretive watch list dragnet. Defendants have used the No Fly List to punish and retaliate against Plaintiffs for exercising their constitutional rights,” the lawsuit states.
The plaintiffs requested in the lawsuit to be removed from the no-fly list, and are seeking “declaratory, injunctive and monetary relief”. The FBI has declined comment.
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