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An American Researcher Detained for Conducting Islamic Research

10 Apr 2012 14:01

Source : Rohama

A Montreal university student is suing the US government after being detained, handcuffed and held for several hours in a cell on the Canadian-American borders for carrying a laptop that included materials from his doctoral research on Islamic studies.

Bfnews:"Ridiculous and absurd are the words that come to mind,” said Pascal Abidor, a student at McGill University, the Canadian Press reported on Sunday, April 8.

"I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to at least try to do something to make a stink out of this.’”

Returning by train to Brooklyn in May, 2010, Abidor said a US Customs and Border Protection agent stopped him at the border in Champlain, New York.

Opening Abidor’s computer, the agent found photos of rallies by the Palestinian group Hamas, which he said he downloaded from Google as part of his McGill University doctoral dissertation on the modern history of Shiites in Lebanon.

Confiscating his laptop, the agent handcuffed Abidor, who is not a Muslim, and took him off the train and kept him in a holding cell for several hours.

During his detention, he was grilled over his interest in Islam and past trips to the Middle East, before he was let go at the border.

Eleven days later, Abidor’s laptop was returned with evidence that many of his personal files, including research, photos and chats, had been opened.

Facing this experience for the first time in his regular travels through the American-Canadian borders, Abidor said the experience was eye-opening.

In the days that followed, he had trouble sleeping and developed an "unhealthy mix of rage and fear,” Abidor said in a recent interview in Montreal.

Taking his case to court, civil rights groups, led by the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a lawsuit on his behalf in September, 2010.

The lawsuit contests policies adopted by US government agencies permitting the search of all electronic devices that contain information, including laptops, cameras, mobile phones and smart phones.

As Abidor’s lawyers argued the search was unconstitutional, the government said it has the right to search belongings at the border without cause.

The judge has yet to rule on whether he will dismiss the case.

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