Pakistani couple sues American, claims racial profiling

The son of a recently assassinated Pakistani politician has sued American Airlines because of the way he and his wife were treated last summer following a telephone threat against the plane that turned out to be false.

Shahbaz Ali Taseer and his wife Maheen Ghani Taseer claim they were victims of racial discrimination by the Fort Worth-based airline and San Francisco police when they were handcuffed and escorted off a New York-bound flight at San Francisco International Airport on Aug. 19, 2010, according to court documents obtained by The Dallas Morning News.

The lawsuit, first filed in March in San Francisco Superior Court, was transferred to federal court this week, according to the Associated Press.

“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 told the AP. “They were singled out and treated as the most vile terrorists.”

The Taseers’ plane was delayed on the tarmac after authorities were notified of a telephone threat against the plane. The Taseers were the only passengers to be led off the plane in handcuffs, interrogated and held for hours, according to the suit.

The FBI later determined the threat was not credible.

American spokesman Tim Smith told the AP the allegations in the lawsuit do not indicate anyone at the airline did anything wrong. He said the airline plans to seek to have the suit dismissed.

The suit seeks unspecified damages based on allegations that the Taseers suffered “extreme humiliation and embarrassment, harm to their reputations and a fear of travel.”

Shahbaz Taseer is the son of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province who was shot by his bodyguard, an Islamic extremist, in January. The newly married couple, who were in the United States on vacation, is back in Pakistan.

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