Rep. Ritchie Torres, NY-D. (AP/Richard Drew, File) (AP/Richard Drew, File)
Ritchie Torres

“The allegations are deeply disturbing and call for an investigation into the actions taken by German officials,” Torres wrote

By Sharon Wrobel, The Algemeiner

US Congressman Ritchie Torres is calling upon Germany’s Consul General in New York to open an investigation into a March 7 incident, in which 16 Hasidic Jewish Americans were reportedly detained without explanation at a Frankfurt airport, The Algemeiner has learned.

According to a letter sent to German Consul General David Gill on Monday, Rep. Torres — a Democrat representing New York’s 15th congressional district — raised concerns about why the Jewish travelers had been detained for more than 10 hours, and without charges.

“The allegations are deeply disturbing and call for an investigation into the actions taken by German officials,” Torres wrote. “It is also disturbing that it was not until the US Embassy in Germany was notified about this incident that these Americans were provided a reason for why their passports were taken and why they were being held.”

“An American passport is one of the most internationally accepted passports, which calls into question why these Americans’ passports were viewed as suspicious,” he continued.

Torres demanded answers as to why the US citizens had their passports taken and were held for so long, and why it took involvement from the US embassy for the Americans to be given any information.

The incident, as reported by the New York Post, involved a number of Hasidic Jews in transit from New York to Vienna via Frankfurt, according to the group Americans Against Antisemitism (AAA), which published video interviews with the travelers. Five of the men were initially pulled aside at passport control, the group said, with a total of 16 Hasidim ultimately detained, with no explanation, for more than 10 hours at the German airport.

“It was horrifying, I can’t even describe it,” said one of the men. “I was detained and asked so many questions. I kept on saying to myself, ‘what am I doing wrong here? What did I do wrong?’”

Following the interrogation, the group was allowed to proceed to Vienna, but only after being asked to sign disclaimers clearing German authorities of wrongdoing, according to the AAA.

The German federal police at Frankfurt airport said in an official response cited by the website Honestly Concerned that they “resolutely reject any charges of discriminatory treatment.” The German police explained that due to travel restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic, “specified exceptions to the current entry restrictions must be regularly checked in detail.”

“For nationals from non-Schengen countries, including US Americans, entry into the Schengen area (which includes Germany) is currently only possible in justified exceptional cases,” according to the statement. “Initially, no exceptions could be established in connection with the entry restrictions. A request to the Austrian authorities also revealed that there were no business reasons and that entry should not be approved. Following further consultations with the party who invited the group and a credible verification of reasons for the trip, the Austrian authorities lifted the travel entry restriction.”

“The groups of people were at no time in police custody – rather they stayed in a regular waiting area of the Federal police during the checking. The doors of the premises were always open to the transit area of the airport,” the German police said.

The German federal police did not respond to an Algemeiner request for comment.

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