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ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE Pan Am Settles ACLU Discrimination Suit; Airline's Insurers To Pay $110,000 For IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 21, 1993 Pan American World Airways agreed today to pay $110,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and an American citizen of Iranian descent who was detained by airline agents during the Persian Gulf War. The passenger, Mohammad Ghonoudian, was forcibly removed from a Pan Am flight from Miami to New York on February 1, 1991, and was interrogated and body searched during a three-hour ordeal solely because -- as one Pan Am security agent told him -- he fit the profile of a "terrorist." "I was humiliated and felt that I had been stripped of all my rights as a citizen and was left with nothing," said Ghonoudian, a fine art photographer from New York City. "No amount of monetary damages can compensate for ethnic stereotyping that deprives individuals of their basic civil rights," said Lucas Guttentag, director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project. "But this settlement demonstrates that security must never be used as an excuse for discrimination." The ACLU, joined by the ADC, had drawn upon the experience of Ghonoudian and others to illustrate Pan Am's harassment of people who appeared to be of Arab descent and were taking domestic and international flights on the now-defunct airline during the height of the Gulf War. The lawsuit discussed ADC monitoring of Pan Am ticket counters at Washington National Airport during which numerous travelers of Arab appearance were subjected to special scrutiny, search and interrogation, while non-Arab appearing people were allowed to purchase tickets, process luggage and board airplanes without any trouble. The lawsuit filed in federal District Court in Manhattan charged that Pan Am's policy violated the Federal Aviation Act; its duty as a common carrier; Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866; Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; the New York Human Rights Law and the Florida public accommodations law. ADC President Albert Mokhiber hailed the settlement as a victory for all Arab-Americans. "Arab-Americans will not tolerate such blatant acts of corporate discrimination which unfairly treat us as a suspect class of criminals and terrorists," he said. "As the hostilities in the Middle East erupt again we must not lower our guard but instead remain vigilant in the defense of our civil and constitutional rights," Mokhiber added. "We refuse to become the Japanese-Americans of the 1990s." The action was vigorously contested and Pan Am denies both any liability and the factual allegations made in the case. The parties to the lawsuit agreed not to sue further in return for the financial amount that will be shared by Ghonoudian, the ACLU and ADC. Plaintiffs were represented by Lucas Guttentag and Victor Bolden of the American Civil Liberties Union and Leon Friedman, a prominent New York civil rights attorney and --end-- ============================================================= ACLU Free Reading Room | A publications and information resource of the gopher:// | American Civil Liberties Union National Office | | "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty"


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