Muslim woman mistaken for terrorist sues officers

2016-08-12 10:42
Itemid Al-Matar, right, stands by her lawyer Gregory Kulis, during a news conference. (Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune, AP)

Itemid Al-Matar, right, stands by her lawyer Gregory Kulis, during a news conference. (Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Chicago – A young Muslim woman on Thursday sued Chicago police who mistakenly identified her briefly as a potential "lone wolf" terrorist as she was leaving a city subway station last year on the Fourth of July wearing a headscarf, face veil and carrying a backpack.

Itemid Al-Matar says officers violated her civil rights by pulling off her religious garb as they arrested her on subway station stairs, then strip-searched her later at a police station, according to the federal lawsuit filed in Chicago on her behalf.

"Several [officers] ran up the stairs and grabbed the Plaintiff and threw her down upon the stair landing, then pulling at her and ripping off her hijab," it says.

Security-camera video made public shows several minutes of the arrest in the subway. Several officers can be seen pushing through a crowd on a stairway to reach Al-Matar, but soon move out of view of the camera.

The fact that Al-Matar was wearing a headscarf, known as a hijab, and the face veil, called a niqab, "was the impetus behind the actions" of the officers, the court filing alleges. In a statement on Thursday, Phil Robertson, a lawyer for the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, and a co-counsel in the civil case, argued that "blatant xenophobia, Islamophobia, and racial profiling" underpinned the officers' actions.

Exhibiting ‘suspicious behaviour’

A police report filed the night of the incident says officers had been "on high alert of terrorist activity" on the Fourth of July holiday when they spotted Al-Matar exhibiting what they believed was "suspicious behaviour," including walking at "a brisk pace, in a determined manner." It also says officers saw what they thought could be "incendiary devices" around her ankles and were also suspicious of her backpack, which was clutched to her chest.

"[Officers] believed that subject might be a lone wolf suicide bomber and decided to attempt to take subject into custody," it says.

A K-9 unit searched for explosive materials, the report says, "with negative results," while "the objects strapped around arrestee's ankles" turned out to be "ankle weights." But Al-Matar was still charged, including with obstructing justice after police accused her of resisting and refusing to comply with orders. She was acquitted on all charges at a state trial earlier this year.

Thursday's lawsuit names six officers and the city of Chicago as defendants, accusing them of excessive force, false arrest, violation of freedom of religious expression and malicious prosecution.

A police spokesperson declined to comment specifically on the suit, saying the department doesn't comment on pending litigation. But police issued a brief written statement that says "officers work hard each day to investigate suspicious activity and fight crime and we strive to treat all individuals with the highest levels of dignity of respect." The city's law department, which represents officers in civil litigation, declined comment.

The case comes amid heightened scrutiny of city police. The release last year of a video showing a white officer fatally shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times sparked weeks of protests and led to an ongoing Department of Justice investigation of Chicago Police Department practices.

Read more on:    us

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.