NEW YORK – Family members of one of the three young men being detained Friday while their vehicles were checked for explosives say he has no ties to terrorism whatsoever and is a caring individual.
The three men were pulled over on Florida's Alligator Alley, Interstate 75, on Friday after Eunice Stone called 911 and reported suspect activity from the men while they were at a Shoney's restaurant in Georgia. One of the cars had also blown through a tollbooth without paying. One set of plates appeared to be stolen, police sources told Fox News.
Although news reports late Friday afternoon apparently have substantiated the three men's claims that they are medical students, they are still being detained, but are not being called suspects.
Meanwhile, the father and the aunt of one of the men spoke out during an impromptu press conference in Washington Friday afternoon. Although the men's names and the family members' names have not yet been released, the father and aunt referred to their loved one as "Omar." But that is not his real name.
"My nephew has absolutely no ties to terrorism what so ever," the aunt said in a statement. "He is a very nice, warm person, a good Muslim who tries very hard to help others. He is a very caring and loving individual and never been rowdy."
The aunt said her nephew is an American native who was born in Detroit.
The father of "Omar" also said he was born in the U.S., and was raised here. He said the three began traveling on Monday from Chicago and were on their way to Miami for a medical conference.
A hospital in Miami had confirmed the three were on the list of those scheduled to attend that conference.
"This lady in the restaurant didn't like them or something, she thought they were Muslims, even though she allegedly commented they didn't have foreign accents," the father said, referring to Stone.
"She thought they were talking suspicious things, fabricated the whole thing and called the FBI," he continued. "It is unbelievable to me the FBI would chase, stop them, and harass them because an untrained woman that has probably never interacted with a Muslim or anyone that is not like her said so."
The father said the FBI visited his home to verify that his son and the other young men were going to Miami for their clinical rotation. His son recently graduated from a medical school in the Caribbean and graduated from college somewhere in the Midwest.
"The situation is extremely unjust because we as Muslims are automatically in the current situation guilty until proven innocent," the father said.
He continued, saying the media is "grossly exaggerating" the issue, particularly since the FBI told the family that law enforcement has yet to find anything suspicious in the men's vehicles and luggage. He demanded the men be released immediately.
"The unfortunate incident that happened on 9/11 makes it seem that anyone in this country that is not Caucasian or black-American is automatically suspected to be a terrorist," he said. "Any credulous person in this country can call the authorities and they treat it like they're going after real criminals. We all came to this country for freedom and apparently this freedom is now being taken away."
Sarah Eltantawi of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, who read the family's statement in front of the National Press Club in Washington, told Fox News on Friday that she has spoken with the family and "they feel this is a very unjust situation."
"The father is just extremely concerned," Eltantawi said, adding that the family describes their family member as a "very, very nice, amiable young man."
Eltantawi said the family was assured by authorities that the young man they are related to should be released today. The family has not yet been able to speak to the detainees.
Hana Gheith, the sister of one of the detainees, said she was in the same classes as the three who are being detained and they were all scheduled to begin nine weeks of medical training in Miami.
"I’m very sad at this time that even in this day and age … that there’s still discrimination and there’s still racists out there," Gheith said.
Gheith and other family members said the government and media is to blame for "jumping to conclusions" after Stone called in with her information. Questioning whether Stone indeed is even a "credible" witness, the family maintained that there is no way their loved one would have been playing a practical joke or laughing about what happened on Sept. 11.
"My brother doesn’t joke about these matters," Gheith said. "This is not a joking matter for anybody."
She even said her brother and his friends organized a candlelight vigil to remember the victims of Sept. 11 and was active in community service.
The mother of that same detainee, named Laila, vehemently said her son "loves everybody" and that the Muslim community is a very peaceful community.
"He loves America -- they [the three men] all love America," she said.