Mar 13, 10:25 AM EDT

6 Imams Sue Airline for Removing Them

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Six Islamic leaders who were removed from a US Airways flight in November are suing the airline for discrimination.

The imams were returning from a religious conference in November when they were taken off a plane in Minneapolis, handcuffed and questioned. They had prayed on their prayer rugs in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport before the flight, and after they boarded, a passenger passed a note to a flight attendant.

When the men returned to the airport the next day, they said, the airline refunded their fare but refused to sell them another ticket.

US Airways Group Inc. has said prayer was never the issue. A passenger reported overhearing anti-U.S. statements, and the men got up and moved around the airplane, the airline said.

The men said they had done nothing that should have been suspicious.

US Airways released a statement saying it hadn't seen the lawsuit, filed Monday, but that its initial position had not changed: that its employees "acted appropriately, and we continue to back the actions of our crew and ground employees in this case."

Imam Omar Shahin, one of the detained imams and the president of the North American Imams Federation, declined to comment ahead of a news conference planned later Tuesday in Washington.

The incident prompted the Muslim Public Affairs Council to complain to the Transportation Department, and the Homeland Security Department's Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties said it would investigate.

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