Imams Removed from US Airways Flight are Suing

Six Islamic leaders who were removed from a US Airways flight after a passenger claimed overhearing the men make anti-American comments have filed a lawsuit in federal court in Minnesota against the airline.

Imam Omar Shahin, one of the detained imams and the president of the North American Imams Federation, declined to comment ahead of a news conference planned for Tuesday in Washington.

The men were returning from a religious conference in November when they were taken off a plane in Minneapolis, handcuffed, and questioned after a passenger passed a note to a flight attendant. Before their flight, the clerics had prayed on prayer rugs in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

When they men returned to the airport the next day, they said, the airline refunded their fare and refused to sell them another ticket.

US Airways Group Inc. has said prayer was never the issue. A passenger claimed overhearing anti-U.S. statements and the men got up and moved around the airplane, the airline said.

The men said they had done nothing that should have been suspicious.

US Airways released a statement Monday saying it had not seen the lawsuit, but that its initial position has not changed: that its employees "acted appropriately, and we continue to back the actions of our crew and ground employees in this case."

The incident was widely criticized by ministers, rabbis and imams - some of whom staged a sit-in in a Washington, D.C.-area airport in protest. The Muslim Public Affairs Council also complained to the US. Department of Transportation. The Homeland Security Department's Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties said it would investigate.

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