By Fiona Ortiz
CHICAGO (Reuters) – A Muslim woman has sued six Chicago police officers alleging abuse and harassment after she was arrested as she entered a train station on July 4, 2015, stripped of her head garment and jailed overnight, a Muslim civil rights group said on Friday.
In the federal civil rights lawsuit, Itemid Al-Matar, 32, a student from Saudi Arabia, claims she was targeted unreasonably by the police because she was wearing a hijab head scarf and niqab face veil, which police ripped off her after they threw her to the ground.
Her lawsuit alleges use of excessive force, false arrest, unlawful search, malicious prosecution and violation of her right to freedom of religious expression.
Al-Matar, who also goes by the name Angel, was charged with reckless conduct and counts of obstructing justice after the arrest outside a busy station in Chicago’s downtown elevated train system.
Some of the charges were dismissed and a judge found her not guilty on other charges, said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of Chicago’s Council on American Islamic Relations, which is representing Al-Matar.
“We believe that she was charged falsely as a cover-up for the police actions,” Rehab said by telephone. “Policing should be concerned with illegal activity and violations of laws, not peoples clothing.”
A spokesman for the city law department said his office would not comment on the lawsuit.
In an arrest report on the incident, police said they were on high alert for “terrorist activity” due to the July 4 holiday and thought Al-Matar might be a suicide bomber because she was clutching her backpack, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Reuters was not immediately able to obtain a copy of the police report.
Rehab said police found nothing dangerous in Al-Matar’s backpack and that she was not doing anything illegal.
“While the Chicago Police Department does not comment on pending or proposed litigation, our officers work hard each day to investigate suspicious activity and fight crime. We strive to treat all individuals with the highest levels of dignity and respect,” the police department said in a statement.
The Chicago Police Department is under a federal investigation on complaints of use of lethal force, especially against African-American men.
Rehab said Al-Matar was seeking disciplinary measures against the police officers, as well as sensitivity training for the police force and compensation for humiliation and psychological suffering.
(Reporting by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Dan Grebler)