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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 July 2018

‘They were brutal with me’ Emirati describes arrest in US after being mistaken for ISIL member

Emirati tells of shocking treatment by US officers, who were told he was suspicious because of his dress and his two phones.
Emirati Ahmed Al Menhali recovers in hospital from his ordeal at the hands of armed police in Ohio. Courtesy WEWS NewsChannel5
Emirati Ahmed Al Menhali recovers in hospital from his ordeal at the hands of armed police in Ohio. Courtesy WEWS NewsChannel5

UPDATE: Police and officials apologise to Emirati arrested in US

DUBAI // An Emirati has told of his “shocking” ordeal at the hands of armed US police after a hotel clerk reported him as suspicious, and with links to ISIL.

“They were brutal with me,” said Ahmed Al Menhali, 41, who was dressed in traditional clothes when he was arrested on Wednesday in Avon, Ohio. “They pressed forcefully on my back. I had several injuries and bled from the forceful nature of their arrest.

“I didn’t think they were there for me. I assumed there was some sort of training exercise or event at the hotel but I was shocked to see them barge at me.”

Mr Al Menhali obeyed police orders to lie down and be searched.

He suffered a panic attack and collapsed after they released him and was taken by ambulance to St John Medical Centre.

Mr Al Menhani, who is married with three children, has been in Ohio since April after having heart surgery in the UAE following a stroke. “I always wear my traditional clothes during all my travels and never encountered such a thing,” he said.

He was trying to book a room at the Fairfield Inn and Suites as the flat in which he was staying was being rented out for the Republican convention this month.

“The hotel staff were nice to me and told me that they didn’t have any availabilities, but I was surprised that the receptionist disappeared with my papers for a prolonged period of time with no apparent reason.”

The Avon police department said they had received a 911 call from the family of a female clerk at the hotel.

Police were alerted to “a suspicious man with disposable phones — two of them — in a full head dress”.

They received a second call from the clerk’s father requesting that officers be sent to the hotel.

Officers ordered Mr Al Menhali to lay on the ground and drop his phone. Police said that at first he did not respond, but eventually did.

A search found no weapons on him. When police spoke to the hotel clerk, they learnt that Mr Al Menhali had not made any statements related to ISIL. Officers said there had been a miscommunication.

Body camera footage from police was released and circulated online.

After the incident, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation urged Emiratis not to wear national dress when travelling overseas, for their own safety.

On Sunday the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation summoned the deputy US ambassador Ethan Goldrich to protest at the “abusive treatment”.

Rawda Al Otaiba, Director of the American Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed her dismay at Mr Al Menhali treatment: “Police arrested and searched the Emirati without any right. He was also defamed by publishing footage of the incident,” reported state news agency, Wam.

Mr Goldrich apologised, and said the incident was an exception, and unacceptable. He said authorities in Ohio would be working with the embassy to clarify the matter.

The US Ambassador to the UAE, Barbara Leaf, said Mr Al Menhali’s experience in the US was deeply regrettable: “We are pleased that city officials met him & apologised,” she tweeted on Monday.

The US embassy in the UAE issued the following statement: “Since learning of the regrettable situation that took place in Avon, Ohio last week, the UAE Embassy has been in close contact with Mr. Al Menhali and his family.”

The UAE’s Ambassador to the US, Yousef Al Otaiba spoke with Avon’s Mayor and asked that he take appropriate steps to ensure a similar incident does not happen again, the statement read.

Mr Al Menhali is still in the US continuing his treatment.

The hotel where the incident took place has yet to comment. Marriott International which owns the Fairfield Inn and Suites issued the following statement: “The unusual behaviour of a man that had entered the hotel caused the hotel staff to be concerned. A call was placed to the local authorities who responded right away. As this is a police matter it would be inappropriate to comment further”.

nalremeithi@thenational.ae

UPDATE: Police and officials apologise to Emirati arrested in US