Man calls his detention in terror scare an injustice

Sunday, September 15, 2002

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 an interview late Friday on CNN. "It is against us today, tomorrow it could be against you."

Gheith and two friends, Omar Chaudhary and a man identified by CNN 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 Shoney's restaurant in Calhoun, Ga., 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.

"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.

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