London, Asharq Al-Awsat – Yahya Weheli, a US citizen of Somali origin who has been stranded in Cairo after being prevented by US detectives from flying to the US because his name appears on a no-fly list, said that he learnt that his name featured on the list on May 5 when he arrived in Cairo on an Egypt Air flight from Sanaa, Yemen. It was in Cairo airport that officials told him to contact the US Embassy in Cairo because his name was on the no-fly list.
In a telephone conversation with Asharq Al-Awsat, Wehili said that everyday he hopes that he will return to his mother and brothers and sisters soon. He pointed out that the US Embassy [in Cairo] is covering the cost of his stay in an old hotel in Garden City even though he is not allowed to enter US airspace or board a US aircraft as he is suspected of terrorism.
Weheli told Asharq Al-Awsat that he went to Yemen “to marry a Somali girl called Mariam” who he spoke to numerous times on the phone as his mother advised him to find a wife and was urging him to go to Yemen where numerous family-friends are based. He added, “In Yemen I joined the Texas Institute for Teaching Arabic many months before transferring to the Lebanese International University in Sanaa to study Computer Engineering there.”
Weheli confirmed that no charges had been brought against him and that he has been completely free in Cairo for the past two months. His family sends him small amounts of money to cover his basic needs. The US Embassy in Cairo took Weheli’s passport from him and issued him with a new passport with which he can only travel to the US and then informed him that his name is on a no-fly list.
Yahya Weheli, who was born in Fairfax, Virginia, and is 26 years of age, said that his mother has been assuring him that he will return to his country and that she had been in touch with a group of lawyers and with civil rights and Muslim organizations in the US to take on his case. Yahya pointed out that his wife is still in Yemen with her family hoping to join him after he returns to the US.
Weheli only spoke little Arabic and spoke English in an American accent. He indicated that his wife Mariam speaks Arabic fluently. He told Asharq Al-Awsat, “I am an innocent US citizen. I am now living in exile and I am suffering from health problems. I do not know how and when I will get back to my country and to my family.” Wehili said that at the US Embassy in Cairo the FBI asked him many questions about the time he spent in Yemen and asked him about his reasons for going there, what he learnt there and which Islamists he had met and showed him photos, none of people he recognized. They asked him if he reads the Quran everyday, prays five times a day and whether he is an observant Muslim.
When Asharq Al-Awsat asked Yahya if he considered himself an observant Muslim he said that he didn’t know but that he is trying [to be a practicing Muslim]. Asharq Al-Awsat asked him about his ties with terrorist organizations and figures, particularly Sharif Mobley, 26, a US citizen of Somali origin who was studying in Yemen and was arrested on terrorism charges. Mobley killed a guard during an escape attempt and is now awaiting trial for premeditated murder. Weheli denied being a terrorist and stated that he has never had any ties to this person or to terrorism and stated that he hates the Al Qaeda organization.