An American citizen who attends a Portland-area mosque is seeking asylum in Sweden. The FBI detained him for questioning, preventing his return home from a trip overseas. April Baer reports.
Yonas Fikre's family is Eritrean. They came to the U.S. when Fikre was 12. He moved to Portland in 2006.
In late 2009, Fikre says he went to Sudan to see if he could find work through family connections. The following spring, he was asked to come to the US embassy. He says he was taken to meet with two men who identified themselves as FBI from Portland who asked questions about the mosque he'd attended in Portland, Masjid al-Sabr.
Fikre said when he realized what was happening, he asked to have an attorney present. That request was denied, since, as the agents told him, he was outside the United States. Furthermore, his name had been placed on the US government's no-fly list. Fikre says the agents indicated that by cooperating with them, he could get his case re-examined. Fikre refused to cooperate with them and left.
A few months later, Fikre soon left Sudan for the United Arab Emirates. And in June last year, he says he was arrested by that country's secret police. Fikre spoke at a press conference from Sweden early this morning.
Fikre explained, "They asked me detailed info which mosque I attend , not in the UAE, in America. Who attended, what kind of fundraising, who attends, where is school for kids, where is restroom, where is library."
Exactly the same questions, Fikre said, the two FBI agents had asked.
Fikre says he was beaten repeatedly during his three month detention.
Masjid al-Sabr is the same mosque attended by Mustafa Elogbi and Jamal Tarhuni, who also were prevented from returning to the United States from trips to Libya earlier this year.
Oregon attorney Tom Nelson is representing all three. He says the thread running through their is deeply disturbing.
Nelson said, "The media should know how America is treating its immigrant Muslim citizens. It's saying you can't go home unless you surrender your constitutional rights."
It's also the same mosque briefly attended by a young man, Mohamed Mohamud, who is accused of a plot to set off a bomb at Portland's holiday tree lighting last year.
The FBI has declined to answer questions about whether or how it might be investigating the mosque.
Fikre says he's not sure if he wants to return to the United States. Nelson wouldn’t rule out a legal challenge to the no-fly list. For now, Fikre is seeking asylum in Sweden.