21 Sep 2006

Former Fiji pilot loses appeal in alleged racism case

9:48 am on 21 September 2006

A former Fiji pilot who claimed he was sacked because of anti-Muslim religious bias after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States has had his appeal rejected by a Federal appeals court.

The Fijilive news website reports that according to a three-judge Federal appeals court panel, Mohammed Sharif Hussein was given the sack because he was seen in a bar in his uniform, not because of religious bigotry.

The US 8th Circuit Court of Appeal upheld a District Court judge's ruling that Trans State Airlines did not violate discrimination laws in firing Hussein.

A spokesman for the airline is quoted as saying the company is pleased that the appeals court agreed with their position.

Hussein, an Indo-Fijian, moved to the United States in 1997 and was hired by the St Louis based airline.

Two days after the September 11 terrorist attacks, when commercial air travel in the United States was still suspended, the airlines senior vice president received an anonymous phone call that a pilot in Trans States uniform was in a hotel bar in St Louis.

The caller said the pilot, whose name tag said his name was Hussein, had raised his glass in salute when TV pictures showed a replay of one of the hijacked planes striking the World Trade Centre.

Hussein claimed he was seen smiling because his wife had just become pregnant, not because of the terrorist attacks.

Trans States Airlines said he was fired not because of his religion but because he was seen drinking in a bar in his pilot's uniform.