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Government Defends Man’s Detainment in Bombing Investigation

November 10, 1995 GMT

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A Jordanian-American said he plans to sue the government for $1.9 million for strip-searching and parading him in handcuffs through a crowded airport after the Oklahoma City bombing.

Abraham Ahmad said he was singled out because of his Middle Eastern appearance and name, and because he boarded a flight to Jordan the morning of the April 19 bombing, according to the complaint he filed Thursday.

But in an April 20 affidavit unsealed by prosecutors later Thursday, FBI agents said they detained Ahmad, 32, because his luggage contained tools that could have been used to build the bomb that tore the face off the federal building.

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The document also said agents asked a judge to let them detain Ahmad because his bags contained garments that resembled clothing of a man seen running from the scene.

Ahmad, a naturalized American citizen who has lived in Oklahoma for 13 years, was held for more than two days before he was released. He was cleared of any wrongdoing and was never officially described as a suspect in the blast, which killed 169 people and injured 500.

``No one should ever have to go through the mistreatment I went through,″ said Ahmad, who broke down in tears at a news conference in front of the courthouse, across from where the federal building once stood. ``This ordeal has left me and my family hurt and emotionally scarred.″

The complaint filed on Ahmad’s behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union claims false arrest, false imprisonment, abuse of process, invasion of privacy, injury to reputation and defamation.

Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols are the only ones charged in the bombing. They face the death penalty if convicted of murder and conspiracy. Their trial is set to begin May 17.

Justice Department spokesman Carl Stern in Washington said the agency had not received a copy of Ahmad’s complaint. It probably will be handled administratively, but could go to court if the two sides do not reach an agreement.

Ahmad left Oklahoma City for his native Jordan about two hours after the bombing. Federal officials detained him for five or six hours in Chicago, where he was fingerprinted and questioned.

The agents eventually put Ahmad on a flight to London since he had missed his flight to Rome. When he arrived in London, British agents detained him, strip-searched him, handcuffed him and ``paraded (him) through the airport so that other passengers could see him,″ according to the complaint.

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Ahmad was detained in London after Italian authorities discovered caulk, tools and videocassette recorder cables in his luggage, which had gone to Italy aboard his original flight. Ahmad has said that the materials were intended as gifts and to make repairs on his family’s property in Jordan.