A San Francisco man has sued the U.S. State Department in federal court, claiming that American embassy officials in Yemen illegally revoked his passport and left him stranded in that country for more than a year.
Mosed Shaye Omar, 64, was born in Yemen. He immigrated to the United States in 1972 and became a citizen in 1978. After working in an auto factory in Detroit for 10 years, he moved to California, where he operated small grocery stores for 20 years, his lawyers said.
According to the lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Omar traveled to Yemen in 2012 to help his youngest daughter, then 13, come to the United States to live with him and her older siblings.
In January 2013, he was told to come to the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, to pick up his daughter’s passport. The lawsuit says when he arrived, his own passport was taken and he was then interrogated for the entire day without being given food or water.
In late afternoon, according to the lawsuit, Omar was told he could pick up both passports if he signed a document. The lawsuit says he signed the document, but did not realize that it stated his true name was Yasid Mohammed Ali Alghazali and that he was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1972 under a false name.
Omar says in the lawsuit that Mosed Shaye Omar is his true name, was used in his childhood in Yemen and was his legal name on his passport and other U.S. documents. He contends the statement was coerced and involuntary and that he did not understand the contents because he has limited English and his vision had become blurred by the end of that day as a result of his
diabetes and high blood pressure.
The lawsuit says that Omar was then stranded in Yemen and was not told until 11 months later, in December 2013, that his passport was revoked because of the alleged false identity. In February 2014, he was given a one-way travel document that enabled him to return to San Francisco, and in the following September, the State Department upheld the revocation.
Omar claims in the lawsuit that his procedural rights were violated because of the allegedly involuntary nature of the statement, the delay in giving him a chance to challenge the revocation and a lack of evidence against him other than the disputed statement.
Omar has never been given back his passport and his youngest daughter is still in Yemen, he said at a news conference outside the Federal Building in San Francisco.
“I need my passport to help my family,” he said.
The lawsuit asks for court orders requiring the return of his passport and requiring due process and proof of fraud by a standard of “clear and convincing evidence” before a passport is revoked.
Although Omar is the only plaintiff in the case, the lawsuit alleges that several dozen other American citizens were subjected to similar coercive interrogations, procurement of involuntary confessions and confiscation of passports at the embassy in Yemen in 2012 and 2013.
A State Department spokeswoman said the department does not comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit names Secretary of State John Kerry and two other officials as defendants in addition to the department.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News