DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The American ambassador to the United Arab Emirates expressed regret Monday over the handcuffing of an Emirati man dressed in traditional clothing who was detained in Ohio over terrorism fears.
Ahmed al-Menhali’s treatment outside a hotel in Avon, Ohio, became front-page news in the Emirates, a key U.S. ally that is home to the commercial hub of Dubai, and prompted the federation’s government to formally summon a U.S. diplomat for an explanation.
“The unfortunate incident that Mr. al-Menhali endured in the U.S. is deeply regrettable,” Ambassador Barbara Leaf said in a statement on Facebook early Monday.
Al-Menhali, 41, was detained at gunpoint on Wednesday while wearing a traditional white kandura, or ankle-length robe, and headscarf after a hotel clerk raised suspicions he could have links to the Islamic State group.
A 911 caller identifying herself as the clerk’s sister told police he had multiple disposable phones and was “pledging his allegiance or something to ISIS,” according to audio of the call posted by Cleveland’s WEWS-TV.
Police camera footage showed officers detaining and searching al-Menhali before determining he was not a threat. He collapsed moments after he was released and was briefly hospitalized.
The National, a government-owned daily in the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi, quoted al-Menhali on Sunday as saying he didn’t realize that police were targeting him and initially thought he was witnessing a training exercise. He had been in the U.S. since April for medical treatment after suffering a stroke, according to the paper.
The married father of three described being shocked when they came at him and said he suffered several injuries during the arrest. “They were brutal with me,” he told the paper.
Avon officials have since met with the Emirati and offered their apologies. Avon Mayor Brian Jensen said the Islamic State allegations were “unfounded.”
Leaf’s statement came hours after the Emirates’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation summoned the U.S. deputy chief of mission in protest. The ministry’s American affairs director, Rawda al-Otaiba, expressed concern over the way police treated al-Menhali and said he was defamed when policed released footage of the incident.
The Emirates has responded to the incident by warning its citizens to avoid wearing traditional garments when traveling abroad.
The seven-state UAE federation is a member of the U.S.-led military alliance against the Islamic State group and hosts American military personnel and warplanes at a large air base outside Abu Dhabi.
Several American companies have their Mideast headquarters in the country, which is a major buyer of American-made weapons and other goods, including billions of dollars’ worth of Boeing Co. jetliners for its fast-growing airlines.
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