New York, Sept. 22 (PTI): An Indian American doctor, who was arrested from a private airline and subsequently released, has said he may sue the US government for illegal detention and emotional distress.
Bob Rajcoomar, who was held by US marshals from a Delta domestic flight last month because “they did not like the way he looked at them” and later released without explanation, has given notice in the district court, a media report said.
“This is blatant racial profiling,” Rajcoomar, a US citizen since 1985, told a Philadelphia inquirer over phone from Florida. He added that the line between security and civil rights violations is blurring.
The newspaper said the behaviour of air marshals while trying to subdue unruly passengers is anything but civil.
Upon landing, the marshals arrested Rajcoomar, who, far from being a terrorist, is a former US army major and a military doctor from Lakeworth in Florida, where he had a family practice for two decades, the report added.
The physician’s account offers a glimpse into the dark side of the US war against terrorism, the paper said.
“They think they can pick up anybody, willy-nilly.... It’s not in keeping with traditions of the US,” said US Transportation Safety Administration spokesman David Steigman. The administration oversees the work of air marshals.
Steigman, however, refused to comment on the potential lawsuit.
The Atlanta-based Delta airline, too, reserved comment on the legal action.
Stefan Presser, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania that has filed the notice, called the detention a civil-rights violation that should “send a wake-up call to Americans before it’s too late.... In our haste to protect ourselves, we are literally turning on each other”.
The dramatic hours on August 31 aboard Delta flight 442, the inquirer said, started when a passenger from Philadelphia described as waif-like and disturbed — caused an alarm when he began looking at other passengers’ luggage. Two air marshals rushed back from their first-class seats to investigate into the matter.
“Air marshals issued a series of warnings to passengers to stay in their seat. The unruly gentleman didn’t stay in his seat, so they took actions to restrain him,” Steigman said.
During detention, Rajcoomar said he was never asked anything except his name, address and social security number.
“One of the marshals said something like, ‘we didn’t like the way you looked,’” the doctor recalled.
Finally, after about three hours, Rajcoomar was released without explanation. “It was like a nightmare,” the physician said. “The marshals were completely out of control...If they had pulled the trigger, we’d all be dead. I don’t feel safe knowing they’re there, not with this kind of behaviour.”