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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Iranian cancer researcher sent home from US after being detained at airport

Mohsen Dehnavi, his wife and three children were put on a return flight even though he had a valid entry visa.

Protesters oppose US President Donald Trump's limited travel ban, approved by the US Supreme Court, in New York City, on June 29, 2017. Joe Penney/ Reuters
Protesters oppose US President Donald Trump's limited travel ban, approved by the US Supreme Court, in New York City, on June 29, 2017. Joe Penney/ Reuters

BOSTON // An Iranian cancer researcher who was due to take up a position at a prominent Boston hospital was detained for 24 hours with his family and then sent back to his country.

Mohsen Dehnavi, his wife and three children were put on a return flight at about 9 pm on Tuesday after being detained late on Monday at Logan International Airport.

The detentions were apparently unrelated to president Donald Trump's executive order temporarily banning travellers from six Muslim-majority countries, according to Boston Children's Hospital and immigration law specialists, who said Mr Dehnavi had a valid entry visa.

"Based on what we know, it's not travel-ban related. It's probably something much more stupid than that," said Susan Church, who chairs the New England chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "The rules say if you have a valid visa you have to be let in."

US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement have so far declined to comment.

Two weeks ago, the US supreme court upheld a revised version of Mr Trump's ban on travellers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, though it excluded visitors with a "bona fide" family tie. The executive order itself did not apply to travellers with valid visas.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump had called for a "complete and total shutdown" of Muslims entering the United States, a move he said was necessary to protect national security in the wake of attacks at home and abroad by Islamist extremists.

Opponents of the idea called it a violation of the US constitution's protections for the free expression of religion.

President Trump's initial January version of the order, which also applied to Iraq, caused a weekend of chaos a US airports as travellers were turned away upon arrival and crowds of thousands turned out to protest against the move.