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Pakistani Couple Sues Airline, SF Police Over Removal At SFO

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS / AP) — The son of a Pakistani official who was assassinated by an Islamic extremist has filed a lawsuit against American Airlines after he and his wife were escorted from a plane in handcuffs in response to a telephone hijacking threat that turned out to be a hoax.

Shahbaz Ali Taseer and his wife, Maheen Ghani Taseer, claim they were victims of racial profiling by the airline and police when they were taken off the New York-bound flight at San Francisco International Airport  on Aug. 19, 2010.

“The only reason (police) went to them is because their names were Maheen Ghani Taseer and Shahbaz Ali Taseer,” the couple’s attorney Joel Siegal said Friday. “They were singled out and treated as the most vile terrorists.”

The suit alleged the newly married couple suffered extreme humiliation and embarrassment, harm to their reputations and a fear of travel. It sought unspecified damages.

The lawsuit, first filed in March in San Francisco Superior Court, was transferred to federal court on Tuesday.

The plane was diverted to a remote stretch of tarmac after authorities were notified of a telephone threat that it would be hijacked. The Taseers were the only passengers to be interrogated and held for hours, the lawsuit stated. The FBI later determined the threat was a hoax.

In a statement, American Airlines spokesman Tim Smith said the allegations in the lawsuit do not indicate anyone at the airline did anything wrong or support the claims made against the airline.

“Accordingly, we soon intend to move to dismiss the claims against American Airlines,” Smith said.

Police spokesmen and the City Attorney’s office declined to comment on pending litigation.

The couple was vacationing in the United States and heading to New York to catch a flight back to Pakistan. Siegal said they are currently in Pakistan.

Shahbaz Taseer is the son of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province who was assassinated by an Islamic extremist in January. Salman Taseer was fatally shot at a market in Islamabad by one of his own bodyguards, who later confessed to killing him because the politician wanted to change blasphemy laws that impose the death sentence for insulting Islam.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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