CHANTILLY, Va. -- A U.S. teenager stuck in Kuwait for a month after he was apparently placed on the U.S. government's no-fly list was reunited with his family at a Washington-area airport Friday.
Gulet Mohamed, 19, of Alexandria, Virginia, greeted family members at a terminal of Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia. Mohamed said it felt great to be back in the United States and expressed concern for others who may be in the same situation he was in.
"There are probably people out there being tortured like I was, whose voices are not being heard," he said.
Mohamed claims he was blindfolded, beaten and tortured while he was detained for nearly a month in Kuwait at the behest of the U.S. authorities. His return to the United States was delayed for weeks because U.S. authorities had apparently placed him on the no-fly list.
Diane Kelleher, a Justice Department lawyer, refused to confirm in court whether Mohamed is indeed on the no-fly list.
On Friday, Gulet's mother Bella Ali hugged her son and thanked God and everyone who had taken up her son's cause. Gulet's brother, Fatah Mohamed, said his brother "was just trying to get closer to his religion."
"You're not going to find anybody who will say anything bad about Gulet," he said. He added that the biggest concern of his family during his brother's ordeal was that "we knew he was in the hands of people who lack principles and morals."
Mohamed's reunion with his family was delayed by questioning from authorities at customs after he landed Friday morning. Mohamed says the FBI tried to question him without his lawyer present. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman said lawyers are not routinely granted access to clients, and described Mohamed as uncooperative.
Mohamed's return to the United States follows a lawsuit filed earlier this week in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations sued on Mohamed's behalf seeking an order that would require the government to allow the teenager to return to the U.S. Before a judge issued any order, however, a government lawyer said Mohamed had been released from detention in Kuwait and was headed back to the U.S.
In its lawsuit, CAIR alleges that the no-fly list has expanded dramatically in the last year and that 400,000 individuals have now been placed on the list.
Mohamed was born in Somalia but came to the U.S. at age 3 and is a naturalized citizen. In March 2009, Mohamed traveled to Yemen and Somalia, where he still has family, to learn Arabic. He stayed in those countries for just a few months and settled in Kuwait in August 2009, where he lived with an uncle.
Mohamed's lawyer, Gadeir Abbas, said it is wrong for the government or anyone else to assume Mohamed was engaged in something nefarious because he traveled to Yemen and Somalia, two terrorist hotspots. For years, he said, Yemen has been a natural place to visit for people of Somali descent who want to learn Arabic.
"Somalis go to Yemen like Americans go to Canada," Abbas said.