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Utah Imam Back Home In Salt Lake City With Family

Whittney Evans

Local Muslim leader Yussuf Abdi returned to Salt Lake City with his family on Sunday. Abdi, who is a U.S. citizen, was stranded in Kenya last week when airport security barred him from boarding his flight back to America.

A cheering crowd greeted Abdi and his family at Salt Lake City International airport Sunday. He thanked those who came to welcome him and his attorneys who helped clear the way for his homecoming.

“There are many good people in the world,” Abdi said. “Like you guys who came today and yesterday who sacrificed for us to welcome us to Salt Lake City back to home. And we are very grateful to you.”

Abdi waited five years for approval to move his wife and five children to the U.S. with him. He arrived at the Nairobi airport Tuesday with his family in tow but was not allowed to board the Qatar airlines flight back to the U.S.  Airline officials told him he was on the No-Fly List. Abdi says he does not know why.

“I did not do anything,” he said. “I don’t have any crime. I have devoted every day and night to help the community.”

Abdi was supposed to arrive in Salt Lake City on Saturday but was detained again for more questioning at Los Angeles International Airport. He then almost missed another flight Sunday but was helped by an American Airlines pilot who, Abdi says demanded the family be allowed on the plane.

Attorneys with the Utah Refugee Justice League and Coalition on American-Islamic Relations have filed a lawsuit against several federal agencies calling for a ban on the No-Fly List. Attorney Jim McConkie is a founding member of the justice league.

“If you’re on it you don’t know until something like this happens. They won’t tell you you’re on it. They won’t tell you why you’re on it. And, so you can’t challenge it,” McConkie said. “We think this raises real constitutional questions that need to be answered.”

Yussuf Abdi told the crowd Sunday the fight for justice isn’t over. He said he is lucky to have a community to support him and fight for his rights, but others do not. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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