KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 19 ― It has been nearly a decade, but Prof Dr Rahinah Ibrahim still vividly remembers the pain she had to endure over the two hours she was detained by US authorities who believed she was a terrorist.
The dean of architecture at Universiti Putra Malaysia had just gone through a hysterectomy a few weeks before and was suffering from excruciating pain when she found herself in the hands of airport officials.
“My back felt as if it was hit by an electric shock with every beat of my heart and I repeatedly asked for painkillers and nearly collapsed, but they ignored me. Only after the paramedics arrived, then they saw to my needs,” she told an interview with Malay daily Berita Harian today.
In 2005, Rahinah was arrested at the San Francisco International Airport, where she was told that she has been labelled a terrorist suspect in the US government database.
She was subsequently barred from entering the country ever since, according to a report by US newspaper San Jose Mercury News, and had to complete her Stanford University doctorate studies remotely due to the ban.
Rahinah, in the interview, said that she was in a wheelchair during the arrest, which happened at the airport’s check-in counter.
“I was immediately handcuffed at the airport’s check-in counter without any explanation given by the police and was treated like a serious criminal,” the mother of four said.
Earlier this week, however, a US judge made a landmark ruling in favour of Rahinah in a lawsuit she filed against the US government to expunge her name from their database.
US District Judge William Alsup ruled that the US government had conceded that Rahinah is not a national security threat and that she is entitled to be informed whether she is still on the no-fly list and for any mistaken information about her to be corrected.
“The government’s administrative remedies fall short of such relief and do not supply sufficient due process,” Alsup was quoted as saying by Reuters in an excerpt of a three-page public explanation of his ruling.
Despite the difficulties she had gone through, Rahinah said it is all in the past and now looks forward to more academic pursuits and set up research collaborations with her colleagues in the US.
“I hope no more people are mistreated and have their names placed on the no-fly list and face what I have gone through,” she said.