No-fly victim at airport here gets international notice

Kevin Iraniha

A U.S. citizen who just graduated from the University for Peace in Ciudad Colón has generated international attention because the federal government prohibited him from flying home to San Diego, California. The man, Kevin Iraniha, found out at Juan Santamaría airport June 5 that he is on the FBI’s no-fly list.

His story has been published prominently on many printed and Internet sources. including the Huffington Post and the British Daily Mail.

There even is a YouTube video of the young man being embraced by friends and family as he crossed the U.S. border on foot from Tijuana, Mexico.

The San Diego native told a television station there, he spent two days in the same clothes making his way home from Costa Rica.

In an email, the U.S. Embassy here declined to confirm whether or not it had contact with Iraniha. Embassy workers need a Privacy Act waiver to make any comment. But the embassy spokesperson did say that the U.S. facility does not have a copy of the no-fly list.

According to the U.S. Transportation Security Agency’s Web site, the only way a person can find out if he or she is on the no-fly list is to check in for a flight. If they are on the list, they are not allowed to board their plane.

The no-fly list is compiled by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center and consists of about 20,000 people, about 500 of whom are U.S. citizens, says the transportation security agency. Other sources say that there may be a million persons on the list.

Iraniha spent the last year at the U.N.-chartered university west of San José. But before that he spent time in Egypt and Iran. Because he is Muslim, his cause was taken up by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“It is absolutely ridiculous to take an American citizen and violate their civil and constitutional rights,” said Hanif Mohebi, executive director of the San Diego chapter of the council.

“The list itself has major, major defects, and at some point Nelson Mandela, Ted Kennedy, a 3-month-old baby and a former Marine were all put on that list,” said Mohebi. The Internet is filled with stories that confirm Mohebi’s statement.

When Iraniha attempted to board his flight, he had just graduated with a master’s degree in international law from the University for Peace.

The university said in an email that it had no previous knowledge that Iraniha had been placed on such a list.

“Kevin has been in contact with us since the very beginning of the incident and has told us the whole and general description about the incident,” said the email. “Fortunately, he is back in his U.S. home.”

Iraniha is the son of Nasser Iraniha, an Iranian-born U.S. citizen, and has expressed support for Palestine.

Despite the lack of a comment by the U.S. Embassy official, Iraniha was grilled there for hours by an FBI agent. Mohebi confirmed that in a talk with San Diego television’s Channel 7.

Iraniha went to the airport here with his brothers and father who had traveled to be at his graduation. They, too, had trouble, His father said he almost was prevented from flying because he had purchased the ticket for his son.

There was no indication that the FBI agent provided or even knew of any reason why Kevin Iraniha was on the no-fly list. Some sources have speculated that he had rebuffed earlier FBI efforts to recruit him as an informant.

San Diego television made much of the fact that Iraniha is a San Diego State University graduate. His Facebook page said he is not a druggie and only an Iranian-American Muslim.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations became involved when it became obvious that the man wold be stranded in Costa Rica. Mohebi said the goal was to get the 27 year old back to the United States as quickly as possible.

“Citizens have the right to come home,” he said. “Our government should not let U.S. citizens be stranded in other countries.”

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