MLFA Applauds Dismissal of Criminal Charges Against Yonas Fikre

DALLAS — Oct. 17, 2013 — Representatives for the Muslim Legal Fund of America, a civil liberties defense fund, are applauding federal prosecutors’ decision to drop all criminal charges against Yonas Fikre (USA v. Fikre, Yonas, et al., Case Number 12CR1689), a 33-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen of Eritrean descent and resident of Oregon. The case was pending in federal district court for the Southern District of California in San Diego.

Muslim Legal Fund of America is Funding the Civil Lawsuit
Accusing the F.B.I. of Proxy Detention and Torture of U.S. Citizen

Federal prosecutors charged Fikre with money laundering two weeks after he publicly accused the Federal Bureau of Investigation with involvement in his 106-day detention and torture in the United Arab Emirates. Fikre, along with his attorney Thomas Nelson, filed a civil lawsuit against the F.B.I. earlier this year for alleged violations of Fikre’s civil rights (Fikre v. Federal Bureau of Investigation et al, Oregon District Court, Case No. 3:13-cv-00899). That case, which is being funded by MLFA, is pending in federal district court for Oregon in Portland, Oregon.

According to the lawsuit, an unidentified F.B.I. agent from the Portland field office, along with F.B.I. agent David Noordeloos, approached Fikre in 2010 while he was visiting family in Sudan. The agents attempting to recruit Fikre to become an informant and spy on his fellow mosque-goers in Oregon. Fikre refused.

The lawsuit alleges that Fikre, once he had moved to the United Arab Emirates in 2011 to start a business there, was arrested by local law enforcement agents and held for 106 days, during which time he was detained and tortured. Fikre claims that the local police were asking the same questions the F.B.I. asked in 2010. He also accuses his captors of brutally beating the soles of his feet and then forcing him to stand for extended periods, among other forms of torture.

“What’s disturbing about this case, besides the alleged detention and torture, is that the government placed Yonas on the controversial no-fly list as a way to keep him off of American soil, where his civil rights would have been more easily defended,” said Khalil Meek, executive director of MLFA. “It’s frightening to think, especially during the Hajj season, that our government may be using the no-fly list to trap, detain and torture American citizens.”

Nelson, Fikre’s attorney in his civil lawsuit, said that the mistreatment of American Muslims hit a new low in Fikre’s case.

“Here’s an individual who has no home other than America, who came to this country looking for freedom and opportunity. When he went overseas to pursue legitimate business interests, first the F.B.I. tricked him into coming to the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum where he was questioned after his request for an attorney was refused, and then they caused him to be interrogated and tortured in the U.A.E. for 106 days,” said Nelson “When he was released by the U.A.E. secret police without charge, America refused to let him return to his family in America. He thus had no choice but to go to Sweden, where he has asked that country to protect him from further abuse at American hands. Finally, when Fikre went public with his story, the U.S. government charged him with a bogus crime, which charges were only recently was dismissed. Fikre’s treatment is an indelible stain on America.”

The Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA) is a national civil liberties legal fund that defends the U.S. Bill of Rights by supporting legal cases involving civil liberty encroachments. Established in 2001, MLFA has defended freedom of speech, freedom of religion, right to a fair trial, due process of law and many of our nation’s civil liberties.