Charges dismissed after port scare

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A judge dismissed misdemeanor charges Monday against three Middle Eastern men from Dearborn, Mich., who were arrested during a mix-up Sunday that triggered a terrorism scare at the Port of Miami.

Authorities said they arrested the men because they were suspicious, but an Arab-American civil rights group in Dearborn called it another case of so-called driving while Arab.

“We understand that mistakes happen, but when they happen this often, it makes you wonder,” Imad Hamad, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Dearborn said, referring to the arrests last summer of five Middle Eastern men in Marietta, Ohio, and Caro, Mich., on terrorism charges after they bought hundreds of cell phones for resale.

Terrorism charges in those cases eventually were dropped.

The men in Sunday’s incident – Amar Al Hadad, 28; his brother, Hussain Al Hadad, 24; and Hassan El Sayed, 20 – were taken into custody after Amar Al Hadad allegedly told a security guard that he was alone in a cargo truck that was delivering a load of automotive parts.

The FBI said the guard directed the driver to a Miami-Dade police checkpoint to obtain the proper credentials to enter the port.

When an officer at the second checkpoint asked the driver if anyone else was in the vehicle and he didn’t reply, the officer climbed into the cab and found the other two men. One of the men, El Sayed, couldn’t produce identification.

Amar Al Hadad, who insisted that he never told anyone he was alone in the truck, was charged with resisting an officer without violence. His companions were charged with trespassing. The Al Hadad brothers are from Iraq. El Sayed is from Lebanon. All are permanent U.S. residents.

Miami-Dade County Court Judge Gerald Klein dismissed the charges during a short bond hearing in Miami, agreeing with a public defender that there was no evidence that they had done anything wrong. They were released a short time later.

Authorities said the arrests were warranted.

“Due to a miscommunication between the gate security personnel and the truck driver, we believe there was a discrepancy in the number of people in the vehicle,” Miami-Dade police spokeswoman Nancy Goldberg said. “This, and the fact that one of the individuals did not have any form of ID, raised our level of concern.”

Hamad said all of the men would continue to live under a cloud because the charges are part of their criminal records.

Despite early media reports, the Port of Miami wasn’t closed Sunday and the Dearborn men didn’t appear on a terrorist watch list.

The families of the men could not be reached to comment.

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