Teenager Held in Kuwait May Be Able to Return to U.S. Soon

Posted on 19/01/2011

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Government lawyers told a federal judge in Virginia on Tuesday that they were trying to expedite the return of an American teenager detained in Kuwait, and that they expected him back in the United States by the end of the week.

The court hearing came after lawyers for the detained American, Gulet Mohamed, 19, sued the government and called his presence on a no-fly list “patently unconstitutional.”

American officials have refused to comment on why Mr. Mohamed has been barred entry to the United States, but F.B.I. officials questioned him last week about his travels to Yemen and Somalia, and asked whether he ever met with militants in those countries.

The case has renewed debate over the Obama administration’s expansion of the no-fly lists after the attempt to blow up a trans-Atlantic jetliner on Dec. 25, 2009.

Mr. Mohamed’s lawyer said Tuesday that Mr. Mohamed’s detention in Kuwait denied him a fundamental right, and questioned why the American government had allowed his client to languish in a Kuwaiti deportation center for weeks. The lawyer, Gadeir Abbas of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said: “A U.S. citizen has a right to reside in the United States, and the government is violating that right. Period. End of story.”

Judge Anthony J. Trenga of the Eastern District of Virginia, who presided over the hearing, scheduled another hearing for Thursday, according to two people who attended the session. Eric H. Holder Jr., the attorney general, and Robert S. Mueller III, the F.B.I. director, are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman, declined to comment on the accusations in the lawsuit, but said a Justice lawyer had told Judge Trenga on Tuesday that “the U.S. government is working to bring Mr. Mohamed to the United States.”

On Sunday, Kuwaiti officials escorted Mr. Mohamed to the airport in Kuwait City, but he was not allowed to board a United Airlines flight, Mr. Abbas said.

In telephone interviews in recent weeks, Mr. Mohamed said that he was handcuffed and blindfolded on Dec. 20 while trying to renew his visa at the airport, and that he was beaten and tortured for a week in a jail in Kuwait before being moved to the deportation center.

Mr. Mohamed said that during hours of interrogation, he was asked whether he ever had contact with Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical American-born cleric now thought to be hiding in Yemen.

A State Department spokesman has said that Mr. Mohamed was not detained at the behest of the United States.

Mr. Mohamed, who came to the United States from Somalia when he was 3, said he traveled to Yemen in March 2009 to learn Arabic, but soon left and spent the next six months in Somalia staying with family members.

He said that since August 2009, he had been living without incident in Kuwait. He denies that he ever made contact with militants.

By MARK MAZZETTI 18.01.2011

New York Times

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