Michigan City Apologizes to Christian Missionaries Arrested in 2010 at Arab Festival

A city in Michigan has issued a formal apology to a group of Christian evangelists who were arrested during the 2010 Arab International Festival under the charge of breaching the peace.

The City of Dearborn agreed to a settlement Monday that involved a public apology and an undisclosed amount of compensation to members of the group Acts 17 Apologetics Ministries.

"The City of Dearborn regrets and apologizes for the decisions to arrest and prosecute David Wood, Nabeel Qureshi, and Paul Rezkalla and the hardship caused to everyone involved," reads the official apology.

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"Through this apology and its acceptance by David Wood, Nabeel Qureshi, and Paul Rezkalla, the parties seek to build a bridge and to confirm to the community that members of all faiths are welcome in Dearborn to peacefully share their views and to engage in religious discussions."

Robert Muise, co-founder and senior counsel at the American Freedom Law Center, represented the Christian missionaries in court.

"For too long our clients have been vilified for simply exercising their constitutional right to evangelize on a public street during the Arab Festival. And despite their acquittal, they continued to be treated as if they had committed a crime," said Muise in a statement. "With this settlement and apology, our clients have been vindicated and this dispute with the City will finally be put to rest."

In June of 2010, four evangelists from Acts 17 Apologetics Ministries were arrested at Dearborn's annual Arab International Festival under the charge of breaching the peace.

In September 2010, a jury found Nabeel Qureshi, Negeen Mayel, Paul Rezkalla and David Wood not guilty of breaching the peace. However, Mayel was found guilty of disobeying a police order.

Located seven miles west of Detroit, Dearborn is one of the most densely populated Arab Muslim communities in the United States, with nearly a third of the city's 98,000 inhabitants believed to be Arab Muslim.

The Arab International Festival is overseen by the American Arab Chamber of Commerce and is reportedly the largest gathering of Arabs in the country. According to AACC's website, this year's festival will take place June 14 until June 16.

"This celebration of cultures will feature performances, vendors and food from many cultures that reside in the Metro Detroit area," reads the site. "Today, cultural understanding is more important than ever and the festival is a wonderful venue to build understanding and establish Dialogue."

The festival has also garnered a reputation in some circles as a dangerous place for street preachers and Christian evangelists.

At last year's festival, a group known as "Bible Believers" protested the event with inflammatory imagery and remarks; 10 people including at least one of the protestors were arrested for disorderly conduct.

Not long after the acquittal, the missionaries filed suit against City of Dearborn, its mayor and its chief of police, 17 police officers, and the AACC. With the settlement made with Dearborn, the AFLC intends to continue with its suit against the AACC.

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