NAPLES, Fla. – One of three men detained after a terror scare on a Florida highway said the experience was an injustice that should never be repeated.
"I learned that injustice, regardless against whom, is wrong," Ayman Gheith said in a television interview late Friday. "It is against us today, tomorrow it could be against you."
Gheith and two friends, Omar Chaudhary and a man identified by a news organization as Kambiz Butt, were detained for 17 hours Friday.
The mens' cars were stopped on Interstate 75 early Friday after a woman told authorities she overheard the men at a Calhoun, Ga., restaurant a day earlier making "alarming" comments, according to Mickey Lloyd of the Georgia Department of Public Safety.
A Florida law enforcement source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the men were heading to Larkin Community Hospital in South Miami for medical training. He said none of the men were on any watch lists.
An alert issued by Florida authorities said the woman reported hearing one of the men say Americans "mourned on 9/11 and they are going to mourn again on 9/13.
The alert also said their target of "possible terrorist activities" was in the Miami area, and that the woman heard the men say they were running five hours behind schedule.
A stretch of the highway was closed, and a search of the mens' cars by investigators, a robot and bomb sniffing dogs found nothing. The men were released.
"If this was a hoax, they will be charged," Collier County Sheriff Don Hunter said, although the decision lies with Georgia authorities.
Speaking to reporters after his release, Gheith, who has a long beard and wore a skull cap, said the woman may have been influenced by his appearance.
"She saw obviously the way I was dressed and maybe she put a little salt and pepper into her story," he said.
The men denied making any comments or jokes about terrorism.
"Would you lose control of the conversation and joke about September 11th?" Gheith asked. "Is that even an option?"
Chaudhary's father, Javed Chaudhary of Kansas City, Mo., was angry over the detention, noting his 23-year-old son was born in Detroit.
"We are very upset. I think this is all fabrication. I don't know what the lady in the restaurant heard or assumed. She must have had some kind of prejudice," said Javed Chaudhary, a native of Pakistan.
Hana Gheith of suburban Chicago also said she didn't believe the report about her 27-year-old brother. She said he was driving to Miami to find an apartment before starting his hospital training program.
"My brother doesn't joke about these matters," she said, her voice at times shaking with anger. "A lot of Muslims suffered in 9/11."
The woman who reported the comments is Eunice Stone of Cartersville, Ga., a 44-year-old nurse who told Fox News Network that she was eating at the restaurant in Calhoun when she heard the men talking.
"I thought anybody that's laughing about 9-11, I know they have that right, but there's something wrong with them," Stone told Fox. She later told The Associated Press the incident was "kind of scary."