New Jersey Mayor quizzed at airport on terrorism

27th Sep 2019

Harun Nasrullah

The Mayor of Prospect Park in New Jersey, US, says that he was “harassed and detained” at John F Kennedy International Airport on August 2.

Mohamed Khairullah says he was returning from a trip to Turkey with his wife and four children when he was questioned by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents for three hours. He says that the CBP agents said that it was a random stop.Khairullah told Turkish international news channel TRT World that airport officials started questioning him about his education and occupation before probing about who he met in Turkey.

“I said I met some elected officials in Turkey because I’m really impressed by how they take care of their communities,” Khairullah said. Then, according to Khairullah, the official asked directly whether he met any terrorists. “That’s when I said no and that I need to be speaking to my lawyer right now and we ended the conversation there,” Khairullah said.

“When I became fed up with their questions, they asked for my phone. When they took it for too long, I told them that I don’t consent to them searching my phone. They ended up keeping it for 12 days saying that they have to inspect it.”

He added, “The Constitution is not blurry at the border for US citizens. They need to respect the Constitution. They need to respect our privacy,” he says. “If there’s something against anyone – not just me, Arabs, Muslims – they need to be very clear about it. We need to be able to clear their names. I don’t know why this happened.”

The Mayor says that the agents kept his phone for nearly two weeks until a lawyer helped him get it back. He says that he has not ruled out taking legal action.

A US Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said that they could not comment on the individual case because of the federal Privacy Act, but said the agency “treats all international travelers with integrity, respect and professionalism while keeping the highest standards of security.”

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