Skip to comments.Man's vacation takes a detour - A Palestinian raises suspicion on an arriving plane
Posted on 03/02/2007 2:31:15 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
TAMPA - Maybe it was his desire to stand and stretch in the airplane.
Maybe it was the gruesome images of torture he watched on his laptop that caught attention.
Something about Iyad Abuhajjaj's behavior on a Southwest Airlines flight from Phoenix to Tampa on Wednesday afternoon concerned airline officials enough to call police.
Police have not accused Abuhajjaj, 36, of any wrongdoing on the plane, but a search of his name revealed an Okaloosa County warrant for his arrest.
On Thursday, the Palestinian health care worker and actor who lives in California was held without bail in the Hillsborough County jail. Deputies say Abuhajjaj met a Florida woman online in 2002, threatened her and used her AOL account without permission.
In a jail interview, he told a reporter he suspected he was singled out on the plane because of his thick accent, dark hair and olive skin.
"I felt like it was because of my ethnic background," he said. "The accent, that's probably it. It could be my look, my accent, I can't say for sure."
A Southwest Airlines spokeswoman said a report on the incident was not finished. She said the airline does not discriminate or single anyone out for their race or ethnic background.
Abuhajjaj flew from his home in San Jose, Calif., to Phoenix, then to Tampa on Wednesday for a vacation.
He said he needed a break from his job with a mental health organization.
In the plane, he flipped open his laptop to watch scenes from a movie he's filming with Stanford University students.
Called The Strange Case of Salman abd al Haqq, the film deals with the arrest and interrogation of terrorism suspects. Abuhajjaj plays an Egyptian secret service officer, said Jeff Orolowski, the film's co-director and a Stanford senior.
Some scenes show violent and bloody torture of prisoners, Orolowski said. Characters speak in English and Arabic.
Abuhajjaj wondered if passengers or crew members saw the footage.
"Maybe somebody saw the scenes and thought it was real," he said.
Then, he got up to use the restroom and started to stretch. A flight attendant asked him to sit down, while another passenger continued to stand up, he said. Frustrated, Abuhajjaj asked the flight attendants for names of their supervisors.
When he got off the plane, he was detained by airport police, who questioned him. A police report says only that he was "a suspicious person," and that "Southwest personnel advised that the passenger's behavior changed during the flight."
When a computer search showed the warrant, Abuhajjaj was taken to jail on charges stemming from accusations made against him in 2002 by a woman in Fort Walton Beach.
Kimberly M. Mathis, a 29-year-old teacher at Rocky Bayou Christian School, accused him of threatening to kill her and misusing her family's Internet account.
Mathis could not be reached for comment, but her father, Ron Mathis, said he distrusted Abuhajjaj because he is a Palestinian.
"I won't go into the arena of judging anybody, but he himself I took as a threat to my daughter, my family and any American, living, breathing person," Mathis said.
News researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Abbie VanSickle can be reached at 813 226-3373 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TIA Police arrest man accused of cyberstalking
Tampa, Florida - A California man was in a Hillsborough County courtroom this morning, accused of cyberstalking a woman in the Panhandle city of Fort Walton Beach.
Iyad Abuhajjaj, 36, is charged with offenses against computer users.
Tampa International Airport Police arrested Abuhajjaj as he stepped off a Southwest Airlines plane on Wednesday afternoon.
The crew aboard the Southwest plane called ahead to airport police, saying Abuhajjaj was acting suspiciously. Police say Abuhajjaj first drew attention to himself by watching a "very violent and inappropriate" movie on his computer.
When police ran Abuhajjaj's name, they found the outstanding warrant.
The Okaloosa Sheriff's Office says the arrest warrant was issued several years ago when Abuhajjaj harassed a Fort Walton Beach Christian School teacher after they met in an online chat room.
The suspect is accused of threatening to kill the 29-year-old woman, her sister and their father after their online relationship soured.
Abuhajjaj is being held at the Hillsborough County Jail with no bond.
I think they mean Orlowski instead of Orolowski - his filmmaking partner:
STANFORD Magazine: May/June 2004 > Red All Over
Just in time for tax day, sophomore Jeff Orlowskis bottom line suddenly got complicated. The grand-prize winner in the MTV and mtvU Free Ride Contest this ...
www.stanfordalumni.org/news/magazine/2004/mayjun/red/orlowski.html - 18k - Cached - Similar pages
These two sentences together don't make any sense. The father's quote says nothing about him being a Palestinian. He clearly stated that it was the man himself who was a threat.
This idiot's a rolling stone. He cam back to FL and didn't know a warrant was out to arrest him? Dumb!
Good catch. You'd think they would have quoted it if he had said it.
That pretty much jumped off the page -- but it's consistent with the reporter's angle: poor, poor victim of Islamophobia, or maybe in his case, Pali-phobia.
I guess he didn't get enough attention by watching himself in a bloody torture video on the laptop, so he had to stand up and get counted, most likely when the "Fasten Seat Belt" sign was lit up.
And he's a "mental health worker." LOL! I wonder who he works for -- some Islamic-funded charity that counsels Muslim victims of similar self-inflicted "discrimination?"
29 years old is old enough to know not to get online and start chatting with Middle easterners.
She brought this on herself and her family.
The Palestinian puke on the plane asked the Stewardes for the names of her superiors, Well he got to meet them.
The St Pete Times is a liberal rag. Not even worth lining the bird cage with.
Ping, also see #2
More likely he took a break from his job in a mental heath organization.
Sami al Arian?
That fool just passed out the other day after a month long hunger strike.
They prison said they will hook him up to a feeding tube.
Thanks for the ping.
There is a little less likelihood for an explosion at a pizzeria or a disco somewhere.