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Journalist says he was wrongly detained under Trump order

Associated Press logo Associated Press 2/1/2017 By KATE BRUMBACK, Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — A CNN editor and producer from Iraq was wrongly detained at Atlanta's airport because of the President Donald Trump's ban on entry for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, according to a lawsuit filed this week.

Mohammed Abdullah Tawfeeq, who has a green card, says in a federal lawsuit filed Monday in Atlanta that he was improperly detained and subjected to additional screening when he arrived Sunday from Iraq.

Tawfeeq, who has worked for CNN since 2004, came to the U.S. as a refugee and became a legal permanent resident in June 2013, the suit says. He traveled to Iraq in mid-October for work and then spent time with family there after completing his assignment.

When he returned to Atlanta, a Customs and Border Protection officer "notified him that he could be refused entry under the president's recently-signed executive order," the lawsuit says.

He was asked why he was in Iraq for so long and what he does for a living before being sent for secondary inspection, where he was told officials needed to "seek 'an email' concerning whether he would be allowed into the United States," the lawsuit says.

After about 30 minutes, Tawfeeq was asked whether he'd been fingerprinted, and he said he'd been repeatedly fingerprinted by the U.S. government while embedded with the U.S. military in Iraq, the lawsuit says. A few minutes later, officials told him he was free to enter the U.S. but didn't give any explanation for their decision and didn't give him any entry documents or stamp his passport.

The lawsuit was filed against the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection and the State Department, as well as top officials in those agencies.

Homeland Security spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said the agency, which includes Customs and Border Protection, does not comment on pending litigation. The State Department didn't immediately respond Wednesday.

Christensen referred a reporter to a transcript of comment made Tuesday by Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, in which he said, "To make sure everybody understands how the process is working today, lawful permanent residents and special immigrant visa holders are allowed to board their flights foreign and will be processed for a waiver upon arrival."

The lawsuit expresses concern that the order could cause Tawfeeq and other legal permanent residents to be wrongly targeted in the future.

Applying the order to legal permanent residents violates federal law and the U.S. Constitution, the lawsuit says. It asks a judge to rule that the officials' actions were unlawful and to prohibit the president's order from being applied to returning legal permanent residents.

CNN said in a statement: "This is a basic request to clarify and assert his rights under the law. We support him in this effort and hope it is resolved quickly."

The network has been a frequent target of Trump's ire for its coverage, and White House reporter Jim Acosta verbally tangled with Trump in his first news conference as president-elect. Politico reported Wednesday that the administration has been freezing CNN out by not making its officials available for interviews.

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AP Television Writer David Bauder in New York contributed to this report.

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Follow Kate Brumback on Twitter: http://twitter.com/katebrumback

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