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Men File Civil Rights Airline Suit

August 2, 2002

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NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ Four men filed a civil rights lawsuit against American Airlines on Friday, claiming they were humiliated when they were removed from an airplane and strip-searched because of their Arabic names.

The men say they were headed home from a March vacation trip to Florida when airline officials asked them to leave the plane.

Three female employees then searched them in full view of other passengers for 30 minutes, forcing them to lift up their shirts and unzip and lower their pants. The men said the captain apologized and allowed them to get back on the plane.

The men _ Eyhab Matari, 25, Ehab Abdelaziz, 22, Osama Zeidan, 20, and Waesam Hamdan, 22, _ are all U.S. citizens of Palestinian descent.

The lawsuit said the airline violated their civil rights by yanking them off the plane based solely on their Arabic names on the manifest and humiliated them during the search, said their lawyer, Hamdi Rifai.

``They believe it is because their names appeared Arabic on the manifest, because no one complained about them,″ Rifai said.

The men seek unspecified damages for humiliation.

``I don’t feel American now,″ Hamdan, who was born in the United States, said Thursday during a news conference. ``I feel second class.″

A spokesman for the Texas-based airline wouldn’t comment.

The allegations mark the second time the airline has been accused of discrimination since the Sept. 11 attacks. A Secret Service agent assigned to protect President Bush was prevented from reboarding a flight to the president’s ranch in December.

The man, an Arab-American, said he felt he was mistreated because of his ethnicity.

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