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Arab-American group sues bank for closing accounts based on race, religion


The Arab-American Civil Rights League says hundreds of Arab-Americans received letters from Huntington Bank this year explaining that their accounts have been closed, shut down or terminated.

No reason was given for closing the accounts, and no other link exists between the private and business account holders, except that they are all Arab-American owned accounts.

"We have clients paying out on them for years on time," explained Samia Hamid-Sareini, Interim Field Director of the Arab-American Civil Rights League (ACRL) in Dearborn, Michigan, "Perfect record. But they just close them. The commonality is that they are Arab Americans."

After a string of complaints over the past few months, the ACRL announced in a press conference today they are filing a $75,000 class action lawsuit against Huntington Bank, alleging racism. The ACRL says the bank closed the accounts based on discriminatory reasons. The lawsuit alleges Huntington Bank as treating its clients of Middle Eastern descent, or perceived as Arab or Muslim, with more scrutiny than other clients.

Huntington claims they need more information and refused to comment about the lawsuit when contacted.

The Plaintiffs are Ali El-Hallani and Mark Manuaeel. The lawsuit against Huntington also requests a restraining order prohibiting the bank from closing the accounts of El-Hallani and Manuaeel, as well as other Arab clients based on race, religion, or other discriminatory reasons.

"When you have a business, you rely on your accounts," Hamid-Sareini said, "You don't want to have to worry about moving all your money to another institution and start over."

She explains that many of the people who have complained to the ACRL have no reason financially to have their accounts closed.

"One customer had an account with his bank for about 20 years without any problems," she explained, "No late fees, no bounced checks. Nothing."

However, according to Maureen Brown, the media coordinator for Huntington, they "appreciate the opportunity to do business within the Arab-American community, in greater Detroit and all our other markets."

-Alana Holland, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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