MELVINDALE – A Yemeni American who resides with his family in Melvindale returned home after spending more than a month imprisoned in Saudi Arabia.
Mohamed Salem, 63, walked off a plane at Detroit Metro Airport just after noon Thursday, five weeks after he was detained while on a religious pilgrimage.
Salem arrived in Saudi Arabia in October with his two sons. They were separated while waiting in line on Nov. 1, according to his attorney, Abdallah Moughni. He was later arrested after, out of anger, telling two people he didn’t know were undercover police officers that he would burn the country down if it weren’t for two holy cities for Muslims, the attorney who helped organize the campaign to free him, told reporters.
Salem, who immigrated to the United States from Yemen in 1989, had been on a pilgrimage to Mecca, the holiest site in Islam, with two of his sons. While waiting in a line near the cube-shape Kaaba, Salem was asked to change lines. Salem had wanted to stay with his sons, but a security guard yelled and separated them, relatives told Moughni.
Salem was being held in Dhahban Central Prison, a maximum security facility facing allegations of torture and known to house terrorists in Saudi Arabia.
Speaking Arabic through an English interpreter at the airport upon his arrival on Thursday, Salem told reporters he was treated poorly the first day of his imprisonment at a maximum security facility.
“They treated him like a criminal,” the interpreter said.
But once Saudi officials learned Salem is a U.S. citizen, “He was taken care of and treated much better than all the other prisoners.”