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Judges: Kuwaiti-born man due damages in arrest

HONOLULU (AP) — A federal court has ruled that a Kuwaiti-born man may collect monetary damages from the city of Honolulu following claims that he was arrested based on unjustified suspicions of terrorism.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco refused to reconsider the case last week and ordered the U.S. District Court in Honolulu to determine the amount of damages that the city owes Mansour Arekat. A three-judge panel had ruled 2-1 in November that Arekat’s civil rights were violated.

Arekat, 45, was arrested in 2003 without a warrant under a state mental health law allowing people to be taken into custody if they’re deemed to be imminently dangerous, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday.

Arekat’s attorney, Eric Seitz, said Honolulu police used the mental health law to detain Arekat for seven or eight hours before he was released without charges.

Seitz said Honolulu police officer Letha DeCaires suspected that Arekat might be a terrorist because he came from the Middle East. Also, a former employee at Arekat’s security firm told DeCaires that Arekat was associated with terrorism and had model airplanes at his apartment that resembled airliners hijacked in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Arekat is a naturalized U.S. citizen who served in the Army from 1987 to 1990 and was honorably discharged.

The FBI warned DeCaires that they had no reason to believe Arekat was a terrorist, but Seitz said she used the state mental health law to confiscate three registered firearms Arekat kept in a safe at his office. The firearms were later returned to Arekat.

A jury ruled in 2006 that three police officers weren’t liable for Arekat’s arrest, but the federal appeals court set aside that verdict in its ruling.

The judges in the majority wrote in November that there wasn’t evidence to establish that Arekat was “a danger to others, let alone that he was imminently dangerous or even that he suffered from a serious mental illness.”

But in her dissent, Judge Consuelo Callahan praised police for “a courageous decision to detain Arekat.”

“If the officers had done nothing and Arekat had proceeded to shoot someone, defendants undoubtedly would have been sued for failing to detain Arekat,” Callahan said.

Attorney fees and costs paid by the Honolulu government to Seitz may exceed $500,000, he said. Arekat’s award hasn’t been decided.

Honolulu Deputy Corporation Counsel D. Scott Dodd said the city already has paid $205,000 to private lawyers who defended the three officers named in the case.

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

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