US confirms Bollywood star stopped at airport

By AFP

June 18, 2010 Updated Aug 15, 2009 at 7:10 PM EST

US officials confirmed Saturday that Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan had been questioned at an airport outside New York but played down the incident as a normal inquiry.

Khan, who is known as the "King of Bollywood," earlier told an Indian television station by telephone from Chicago that he had been held for two hours at Newark Liberty International Airport, opposite New York City.

He lashed out at US airport officials, who are frequently accused by human rights groups of profiling Muslims, charging he was singled out because of his last name.

But US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesman Kevin Corsaro told AFP that the early Friday afternoon questioning, which began at 1:00 pm (1700 GMT), was a normal procedure for anyone requesting admission into the United States.

Corsaro said Khan's situation was complicated after the airline, which he did not identify, lost the star's luggage.

Citing "privacy concerns," CBP declined to provide specifics of the incident, but said the inspection lasted "a little more than an hour."

"Generally speaking, travelers applying for admission into the United States are subject to inspection," the agency said in a statement. "The inspection process may include a more in-depth interview and baggage examination."

Saying it "strives to treat all travelers with respect and in a professional manner," CBP blamed the delay on the luggage loss.

Travelers, it added, "may be referred for further inspection for a variety of reasons, to include identity verification, intent of travel and confirmation of admissibility."

Corsaro said the additional verification can take place when an individual traveling on a tourist visa attempts to enter the United States to work.

There were reports Khan, 43, was promoting a movie.

Earlier this month, Fox Star Studios announced it had struck a deal to finance and distribute "My Name is Khan" a movie starring Khan about an Indian Muslim setting out on a journey across the United States. It is targeted for release in early 2010.

The actor, who planned to take part in celebrations in Chicago Saturday to mark India's Independence Day, told CNN-IBN television he was "really taken aback" by the incident.

Khan was held for questioning weeks after uproar erupted in India when former Indian president Abdul Kalam, also a Muslim, was frisked by personnel of US carrier Continental Airlines in New Delhi before boarding a US-bound flight.

Kalam was searched despite protocol rules at Indian airports exempting certain dignitaries from security checks. The airline later apologized.




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