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American imams sue US Air for removing them from flight

Story Highlights

• Police escorted the imams off plane after suspicious behavior, airline said
• Some had prayed in the airport lobby before boarding plane
• Imams were questioned, not charged
• Imams: US Airways would not sell us new tickets
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Six Islamic religious leaders have filed suit against US Airways for having them removed from a domestic flight last November.

Police escorted the imams, all residents of the United States, off a plane in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after passengers and airline staff said the men were acting suspiciously.

Some of the men had prayed in the airport lobby before boarding, and passengers were concerned when two of the men requested seat belt extensions. (Read full story)

The men were questioned and released later that evening without being charged. But, they said, when they tried to book another flight on US Airways, the airline declined to sell them new tickets.

The men said the arrest was degrading and a violation of their civil rights, and the event provoked outrage from several minority groups. At a news conference Tuesday morning, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said the government must work to protect the civil liberties of every citizen.

"We cannot allow prejudice and fear to determine our actions as a nation," said Nihad Awad. "If the civil rights of one American are violated, the civil rights of all Americans are threatened."

In a statement regarding the incident, US Airways defended the flight crew.

"Our position on this matter has not changed," it said. "We continue to back the actions of our crew and ground employees.

"This was not about prayer, but rather about behavior on the airplane that led to a decision by our crew members -- backed by local law enforcement -- to remove these customers from the airplane for further questioning."

In addition to US Airways, the imams are suing the Minneapolis Metropolitan Airports Commission.


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Imam Omar Shahin, one of the six imams removed from a US Airways flight, waits at a ticket counter in November.

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