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Mistreatment of Saudi citizens in the United States

RIYADH, 15 October ó Saudi Arabia has officially protested to the American administration against the mistreatment of Saudi citizens in the United States by security authorities after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"The Saudi Ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar ibn Sultan, has presented a letter of protest against excessive behavior by American security agencies in relation to Saudis," Ahmad Qattan, director of Prince Bandarís office in Washington, said.

Speaking to Okaz Arabic newspaper, Qattan added that US authorities have so far arrested and questioned 173 Saudis living or studying in the US in connection with the terrorist attacks.

"Fifty-four of them are still under investigation," he explained.

The embassy, he said, has facilitated the travel of 395 Saudis back to the Kingdom in the wake of the ongoing American backlash against Saudis and other Arabs and Muslims.

"The Saudis in detention are generally in a satisfactory condition, despite individual cases of excessive interrogation and maltreatment by US authorities," Qattan said.

The majority of Saudis have been detained over visa complications and traffic violations.

Qattan advised Saudis residing in the United States to legalize their stay, as required by law.

The embassy has appointed lawyers to defend all Saudis detained since the terrorist attacks.

The FBI has released the names and pictures of 19 Arab suspects in the hijacking, the majority of whom are Saudis. But Qattan said Prince Bandar had told the US authorities that a number of Saudi suspects were either alive in the Kingdom or died long ago.

"The presence of Saudi passengers on board the hijacked plane does not mean they were behind the attack. We have to wait until the investigations are completed before we can find out who the perpetrators were," he said.

"Even if it is proved that the attacks were carried out by a group of Arabs or Muslims, it does not mean they represent Islam or Muslims, and as a consequence to punish Arabs and Muslims for the wrongdoing of a few insane individuals.

"Otherwise, the United States should have taken revenge against all Christians for the Oklahoma bombing by Timothy McVeigh and against all the Jews for the terrorist acts of Kahana," Qattan told Okaz.

Assaults against, and general abuse of, Arabs and Muslims ó especially Saudis ó have become rampant in Western countries since the terror attacks.

A Saudi woman from a prominent business family in Jeddah said she was virtually manhandled by security officers at a London airport. They asked an old Saudi woman whether she was a terrorist. Another Saudi woman at the same airport was asked: "Are you a Bin Laden supporter?"

Interior Minister Prince Naif told a recent international press conference in Riyadh that Saudi Arabia would not tolerate mistreatment of its citizens abroad. "We will not tolerate if Saudis are treated badly," he told reporters.

Meanwhile, three men of Arab origin were asked to leave a charter flight before it took off from the Swedish capital of Stockholm on Saturday after several fellow passengers expressed their unhappiness at their presence, a Swedish daily reported yesterday.

In another development, the FBI has looked into a Denver truck school where up to 35 Arab male students paid in cash and did not seek job placement assistance afterward, TIME magazine reported yesterday.

Federal Bureau of Investigations agents are trying to head off possible future attacks after the Sept. 11 air assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Some authorities fear truck bombs might be used in the future, either with traditional explosives or with hazardous or chemical cargo.

The magazine said a truck school executive tipped off the FBI that between 25 and 35 Arab men attended the school in Denver during the past two years. They did not speak English and each group used the same interpreter.

TIME said the men all received driverís licenses, even though English proficiency is a requirement.

Source: Arab News



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