Saturday, May 22, 2004

Muslim Mallgoers Detained by Police

By Olivier Uyttebrouck, Journal Staff Writer

Members of Albuquerque's Islamic community said police practiced racial profiling on Sunday by detaining eight people for up to two hours at Coronado Center.
Essa Dalloul, 20, said an Albuquerque police officer stopped him about 6 p.m. in the mall concourse, placed him in handcuffs and made him sit on the floor for nearly two hours before releasing him.
"I felt kind of embarrassed and humiliated," Dalloul said Friday at a news conference at the Islamic Center of New Mexico. "I just went shopping, and I find myself on the floor in handcuffs."
Albuquerque Police Department Chief Gil Gallegos said officers were summoned by mall security after two Middle Eastern men were seen praying outside the mall. Dalloul, who was not one of the men praying, was cuffed and detained for about 45 minutes, he said.
"He was not arrested and he was not mistreated," Gallegos said of Dalloul. "There was no racial profiling."
Police have remained on heightened alert since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, he said.
"We responded to (mall) security's call," he said. "Doing anything less would be a disservice because of security concerns since 9/11."
Ahmad Assed, Dalloul's attorney, said the report of Islamic men praying near the mall did not justify police detaining and cuffing Dalloul, an Albuquerque resident and U.S. citizen.
Muslims pray five times a day and the two men had found a grassy place near the mall to pray, Assed said. Police brought the two men into the mall but did not cuff them, he said.
Five of Dalloul's friends and relatives asked police why they were holding Dalloul, Assed said. Police responded by seizing their identification cards until about 8 p.m., he said.
"We strongly recommend that (Albuquerque police) make an effort to educate its personnel on Islamic practices and that it make an effort to reach out to our Islamic community," board members of the Islamic Center said in a written statement.

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