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Detained airline passenger explains wired jacket

Actions of security personnel were 'inappropriate,' she says

Suha Atiyeh:
Suha Atiyeh: "I definitely think that being an Arab was a determining factor in holding me for so long."

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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- The battery-powered jacket Suha Atiyeh wore to keep warm ended up causing her hours of discomfort when it raised the suspicions of an airport security official in Paris, France.

Atiyeh told CNN on Friday evening that the leather motorcycle jacket had made it safely through a few airports in the United States before the nation was under a Code Orange terror threat alert, as it was when her flight was scheduled.

The jacket even made it through the X-ray machine at Charles de Gaulle Airport on Tuesday as Atiyeh made her way toward a flight to Cincinnati, Ohio.

But then her luck ran out.

"The woman that was doing the hand search touched the jacket like this," Atiyeh said, running her hand along the inside panel of the jacket just below her right arm. "And she noticed the pocket right here."

The pocket contained wires and a battery pack.

Atiyeh said she knew the jacket wasn't capable of doing harm, but the woman conducting the search didn't know what to make of it.

"She probably thought she was looking at some kind of wiring device that might explode," Atiyeh said. "It just looked different, so it looked like it could be a threat."

It didn't help that Atiyeh held a passport from Jordan, she said.

"I definitely think that being an Arab was a determining factor in holding me for so long and doing more serious checks than they would have for anyone else," she said.

At the time, U.S. law enforcement sources named a combination of factors for their suspicion.

Atiyeh is a 22-year-old Saudi electrical engineer.

Her nationality, passport and occupation, along with the wires in her jacket, all raised concerns, the sources said.

"They pulled me aside because they found it very suspicious," Atiyeh said. "Then they told me I wasn't allowed to board the plane. And then they had me sit inside the airport while they were trying to decide what was going to be done."

Atiyeh was questioned at length.

Security officials asked where she was born, why she was flying through Paris, whether she was politically active, whether she had friends who were Palestinians and more.

"The questions I felt were procedure," she said. "But the way they handled it or went about asking the questions was rather aggressive. It was inappropriate the way they handled things. They were very disorganized in general."

Atiyeh said she still finds the situation "slightly bothersome."

Even when she boarded her flight out of France the next day, Atiyeh said she felt it was under an eye of suspicion.

"I don't think they ever thought that I was not a threat," she said. "And even the next day when they found that I was cleared of everything and [I] boarded the plane, they felt I was a threat."


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