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DETROIT (AP) _ An American follower of the Falun Gong sect who was detained in Beijing returned to the United States Saturday, saying he had been questioned and threatened before he was deported.

Jason Pomerleau, 25, said it was only because of nationality that he and his Canadian girlfriend, Christine Loftus, 22, were freed without much harm.

``If we had been Chinese, we would have been beaten severely,'' Pomerleau said from Detroit Metropolitan Airport, where he arrived on a flight from Beijing and waited for a connecting flight to Boston. ``We are very, very lucky.''

His brother, Daniel Pomerleau, a student at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., had been arrested on Wednesday while passing out Falun Gong literature and was deported the same day.

Jason Pomerleau said he and Loftus planned to distribute Falun Gong materials at an electronics market on Thursday.

``We were getting on the bus, when somebody in plain clothes grabbed us,'' Pomerleau said. ``Immediately my reaction was `We haven't done anything wrong. We haven't committed any crime.'''

He said they were questioned together, then separated later that night.

Pomerleau, a laboratory technician at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, said there was much ``pushing and shoving'' and he was threatened.

``We were not at all angry at these people,'' he said. ``We didn't show anything but kindness to these people. So it made it hard for them to be violent to us.''

Loftus, a student at Brock University in St. Catherine's, Ontario, was released Friday night, he said.

China outlawed Falun Gong in 1999, calling it an ``evil cult'' that leads followers to their deaths by driving them insane or telling them to refuse modern medicine.

The group claims it seeks only to promote good health and moral living with its regime of traditional Chinese exercises, meditation and beliefs based on Taoism, Buddhism and the ideas of its founder, Li Hongzhi.

Thousands of Falun Gong members have been detained in China, and the group claims hundreds have been killed by police. Beijing denies abusing Falun Gong followers.