Say Passengers Who Spoke Up Are Protected From Litigation
travelers, flight crew members, and law enforcement officers who
removed six Muslim imams from a November 2006 flight were acting in
the best interests of national security, officials with US Airways
and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport want a jury trial in
the civil rights lawsuit brought forth by the imams.
As ANN reported, the six
Muslim imams, or scholars, were removed from a US Airways flight to
Phoenix after passengers and crewmembers expressed concern over
what they called the men's suspicious behavior -- which allegedly
included asking for seatbelt extensions, although the men didn't
need them, and failure to take their assigned seats.
The six men, who were returning home from an Islamic clerics
conference, also criticized the war in Iraq and President Bush, and
spoke about al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden while in the terminal and
onboard the plane, according to passenger complaints.
The Washington Times reports the airline and the Minneapolis
Airports Commission also want immunity for those who stood up, and
demanded the imams be removed from the flight -- citing a "John Doe" law passed by
Congress last year, that protects those who report persons acting
suspiciously to authorities.
A subsequent discrimination lawsuit, filed last year by the six
men, was amended December 14 to include the six airport police
officers who responded to the gate as defendants.
"We believe the police officers acted appropriately and that it
is important that airports across the nation be able to take action
when there is a reasonable belief that travelers could be
threatened," said Minneapolis Airports Commission spokesman Patrick
Hogan. "In this case, there were travelers and flight crew members
who raised concerns, and we worked with federal authorities who
interviewed the imams.
"We believe the process worked as it should to protect the
traveling public," Hogan added.
In its response to the amended suit, US Airways rebutted the
over 200 complaints brought forth by the Muslims against the
airline, and denied "that it engaged in any unlawful discrimination
or violated any federal or state law."
The carrier also demanded the imams produce "strict proof" on 97
of those claims before a jury -- and stood behind the captain on
the flight, John Wood, who asked for the imams to be removed from
his plane. US Airways said Wood, who acted on information provided
by the cabin crew, suspected the imams "may have posed a risk to
the security of the flight," and the "decision to deny
transportation was based upon the legitimate, non-discriminatory
business purpose of ensuring flight safety," the airline said.
The imams assert they were placed under arrest -- which they
"did not consent to" -- saying the police officers' "acts and
conducts were solely motivated by their intent to discriminate
against [the imams] based on their race, color, religion,
US District Judge Ann Montgomery has not ruled whether she will
hear the case with a jury present. She denied motions to dismiss
the suit in November.