Comedian questioned by CBP in Spokane files federal lawsuit against U.S. Government

Spokane mayor David Condon responds to viral Twitter thread
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SPOKANE, Wash –A comedian who was briefly detained by Customs and Border Protection at Spokane’s Intermodal Center last year has filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. government.

Mohanad Elshieky is a Libyan national who received asylum in the U.S. in 2017. According to the lawsuit, filed last week in Spokane, “CBP officers singled out Elshieky based on his North African appearance and unlawfully detained him after he boarded a domestic bus.”

The lawsuit says Elshieky provided two forms of identification, including his Oregon driver’s license and his employment authorization document. He says CBP officers still took him off the bus and detained him. He says the officers told him that “illegals fake these [documents] all the time and use them.”

Elshieky says he was unlawfully restrained and “deeply disturbed that agents of the United States government refused to acknowledge immigration documents” and that he “desperately feared he would be deported back to Libya.”

The lawsuit further alleges that after 20 minutes, “CBP agents eventually whispered amongst themselves and ultimately decided that they would ‘let him go this time’ implying they were doing him a favor.”

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The presence of CPB officers at the Intermodal Center has been a divisive issue in Spokane politics in recent years.

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Elshieky’s lawsuit says he first entered the United States on a student visa in 2014. Before that, he worked in Libya as an English teacher at a school funded by the U.S. State Department. He says after he left Libya, civil war erupted and he was notified people were looking for him there and even raided his room trying to find him. Because of his work with the U.S., Elshieky says it was unsafe for him to return to Libya and he was granted asylum. He has applied for long-term permanent residency, according to his federal claim.

At the time he was detained in Spokane, he was returning from a show at Washington State University in Pullman.

His claim says that the night of the incident, CBP officers were moving through the bus, questioning people, even though the bus was on a domestic route with no international border crossings planned. He says two other people, appearing to be of Hispanic descent, were also questioned.

He was eventually able to board the bus. He say when he did, he “burst into tears” and was “consumed with anxiety during his 6.5 hour bus ride to Portland.”

Elshieky says the incident left him with “lasting emotional trauma” and nightmares that continue today.

His claim says that the night of the incident, CBP officers were moving through the bus, questioning people, even though the bus was on a domestic route with no international border crossings planned. He says two other people, appearing to be of Hispanic descent, were also questioned.

His suit against the government includes claims of false arrest, false imprisonment and violation of his civil rights.

No hearings have been set and no monetary figure was claimed.

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