An American Jewish woman who was taken off a plane by armed agents at Detroit’s airport and then handcuffed, strip-searched and interrogated, even though she committed no crime, has settled the federal lawsuit she filed following the traumatic experience four years ago.
Shoshana Hebshi is to receive $40, 000 from the federal government as compensation for the “severe humiliation she suffered, ” the American Civil Liberties Union said in a press release.
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The ACLU, which filed the suit on behalf of Hebshi, claimed that she was singled out because of her Middle Eastern name and appearance.
Frontier Airlines, the Transportation Security Administration and Wayne County Airport Authority were named in the lawsuit. Hebshi, who has a Jewish mother and Saudi Arabian father, has said she was ethnically profiled based on her dark complexion, AP said.
The mother of two was detained after her Frontier Airlines flight landed at Detroit Metropolitan Airport on Sept. 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“I filed this lawsuit because I didn’t want others to experience the kind of unnecessary trauma that I did, and it has given me faith that the justice system can work to protect constitutional rights, ” Hebshi said in a press release. “This settlement gives me some peace of mind. Now, I feel like I can finally put the incident behind me.”
Frontier said it will amend its employee handbook and training to “more clearly state its zero-tolerance policy on discrimination.”
Hebshi of Sylvania, Ohio, was traveling home after visiting a sister in California.
In an article contributed to MSNBC, ACLU attorney Rachel Goodman said that during the flight, passengers became suspicious of two South Asian men seated next to Hebshi because each had used the bathroom for what they believed to be an unreasonably long time.
Frontier then reported them, along with Hebshi, to law enforcement as suspicious, which is why she had guns pointed at her and armed men screaming at her to get off the plane, Goodman said.
“Things only got worse from there. Over the course of the next four hours, Shoshana, terrified and confused, was handcuffed, strip-searched, and interrogated as a threat to national security – all because happenstance seated her next to two South Asian men who had to go to the bathroom. Afterward, all three were released without charge – all three the victims of racial and ethnic profiling”, she added.
The airport authorities, however, remain adamant that they acted properly under the circumstances.
In a press release, Thomas Naughton, chief executive of the Wayne County Airport Authority, said the police “acted quickly and responsibly, and followed appropriate protocols in responding to a request for help from one of our airline partners.”
“I strongly support their actions. We remain committed to vigilantly protecting the safety of the travelling public”, he added.