A hopeful update to our story last week about Ali and Shahla Afshari, the Iranian couple that were abruptly fired in West Virginia two years ago
with little explanation.
The Charleston Gazette reports that the couple settled with the U.S. government -- which now admits it was wrong to fire them:
The federal government now admits that it made a mistake when it fired a Morgantown couple of Iranian descent two and a half years ago.
Earlier this month, Ali and Shahla Afshari reached a settlement with the government for $654,000 in back pay and damages.
Also, they were reinstated to their research jobs at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Morgantown.
"I'm glad that we were vindicated," Shahla Afshari said. "The most important thing for our family was to clear our name."
Apparently, the feds offered them settlement money earlier, but only if they didn't demand to go back to work -- an offer they refused. The couple has lived in the U.S. for 18 years, conducting workplace safety research for NIOSH, work which the Gazette notes "had nothing to do with national secrets and did not require a security clearance."
The Afsharis note that the money comes nowhere near the expenses they have piled up after losing their jobs in May 2004. $200,000 alone will go to cover lawyers fees -- and even the lawyers aren't getting their due after two years on the case.
It's good that the Afsharis are back at work and their name is cleared. But the case revealed bizarre and troubling behavior on the part of federal officials that demand greater scrutiny, including:
* The Federal Bureau of Investigations had decided the Afsharis were not a threat long before they were fired. A local FBI agent already had conducted a routine check and closed their file.
* A government official was forced to recant her sworn testimony about the couple. At first, she said she recommended to Howard that they be fired. Later, she said that her sworn testimony was "not consistent" with her current "recollection of matters."
* The government officials in Atlanta who recommended their firing never interviewed their neighbors, co-workers or supervisors in Morgantown. They never talked to the local FBI agent, either.
It begs the question of what other domestic casualties have been suffered during the "war on terror."