The mayor of an Ohio town, at the center of an incident that prompted the United Arab Emirates to warn citizens against wearing traditional robes abroad, apologized and said on Monday some of those involved could face criminal charges.
Police in Avon, Ohio, last week pinned to the ground and handcuffed an Emirati businessman, Ahmed Al Menhali, after receiving reports he was pledging allegiance to Islamic State militants while speaking on his cellphone in a hotel lobby.
According to Avon Mayor Bryan Jensen and Julia Shearson, head of the local branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the 911 calls were placed by relatives of a female clerk at the hotel who was unnerved by his appearance.
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“We came to find out that those statements were never heard by anyone, the statements were never said,” Jensen told Reuters on Monday. “A person who makes a false accusation like that endangers not only the person that they are making them about but (also) it frustrates us and angers us that we’re going into a situation that puts our police officers in a position they would never want to be in.”
Criminal charges of making false 911 calls were being considered as part of an investigation that could be concluded as early as Tuesday, he added.
After the incident, which was caught on video, the UAE government urged men to avoid wearing the white robes, headscarf and headband of the national dress when in public abroad, “to ensure their safety.”
The foreign ministry also summoned the U.S. deputy ambassador to protest the “abusive” treatment the businessman endured, UAE state media reported.
Both the mayor and Avon Police Chief Richard Bosley apologized to Al Menhali late on Saturday in a meeting in nearby Cleveland arranged by CAIR and televised by WEWS, Cleveland’s ABC affiliate.
“There were some false accusations made against you, and those are regrettable,” Jensen told Al Menhali.
“No one in the police department meant to disrespect you,” added Bosley. “You should not have been put in that situation.”
Al Menhali, who the mayor said was staying temporarily in the area for medical treatment, wore a traditional white robe and nodded at the officials seated across from him at the meeting.
“Instead of retreating behind a wall of silence, they came forward swiftly to unequivocally exonerate Mr. Al Menhali, which is extremely important in restoring his dignity and reputation,” Shearson said in a statement.