Travel ban death claim a lie, says Michigan imam

DETROIT • An American who claimed that his mother had died after not being able to travel to the United States for treatment a day after President Donald Trump's controversial travel ban is said to have lied, US media reported.

US citizen Mike Hager claimed that the ban had prevented his 75-year-old mother Naimma from travelling from Iraq to the US for medical treatment last Friday, and that she died the next day.

But a Michigan Islamic leader told WJBK television station that Mr Hager's mother, who suffered from kidney disease, had died five days before the ban was imposed.

She had in fact been receiving treatment in Michigan and died in Iraq on Jan 22 while she was visiting her family, said Imam Husham Al-Hussainy.

The leader of the Karbalaa Islamic Educational Centre in Dearborn also said that Mr Hager told him three days before his mother's death that he was going to Iraq to see her as she was very sick.

A Detroit mosque held a prayer service in the mother's honour.

Mr Hager, who fled his home country of Iraq during the Gulf War, had earlier claimed his mother and three other family members were prevented from boarding a US-bound flight, while he was allowed to pass.

When WJBK contacted Mr Hager about his lie, he seemed to stand by his story, saying: "Since I lost my mum, I have been on heavy medication - I can't even sleep. I did not make anything up."

Mr Hager worked as an interpreter and cultural adviser for the US Special Forces. He now owns a local business and has lived in Michigan with his family since 1995.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2017, with the headline 'Travel ban death claim a lie, says Michigan imam'. Print Edition | Subscribe