No charges to be filed against Granite Falls mayor in airport incident

The King County Prosecutor's Office announced Thursday there is insufficient evidence to file a felony harassment charge against Granite Falls Mayor Haroon Saleem, who was arrested at Sea-Tac Airport Monday night and jailed overnight after a verbal dispute with his niece. 

In a statement, the prosecutor's office said it had reviewed the investigation referred by the Port of Seattle police regarding the incident. "There is insufficient evidence to file a felony charge in this matter," it said. "As a result, the case is being declined."

On Wednesday night, Saleem, 58, said in an interview that  he was wrongfully arrested and he plans to sue the Port of Seattle police.

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“It is tough being a foreigner and a Muslim in this country,” Saleem said of his arrest. “And I still feel bad for saying that, but I can`t help it.”

Port of Seattle police said the incident began at the airport's baggage claim about 8:15 p.m. Monday when people reported a man shouting at family members. The mayor was taken into custody at the scene, booked into jail overnight and released on his own recognizance Tuesday afternoon.

The mayor’s wife, Bushra Haroon, said the argument started over their 13-year-old daughter, Nida Haroon, who had traveled to Los Angeles with an adult niece and complained she had been badly treated. 

Saleem was at Sea-Tac to pick up his returning daughter, when he and his niece got into an argument over his daughter’s treatment on her trip. The niece told police that he had threatened to kill her.

“Nobody heard anything, not a single person,” Saleem said in an interview in his home Wednesday. “If there was one single person who came forward and said, ‘He said that,’ I would say fine, guilty as charged, no problem.”

Saleem said he confronted his niece about the alleged bullying of his daughter, but he said that was all. “I never threatened her, physically or verbally. All I did was ask her the question.”

He said one independent witness tried to tell the Port of Seattle police that he had not threatened to kill anyone.

“But apparently they didn`t pay attention to her,” Saleem said of the independent witness. “What they (the police) said was when there is a domestic violence case, they have to arrest somebody.”

The niece, Tania Chatelle, 35, told Q13 FOX News later on Wednesday she never pushed the mayor at the airport, as the mayor's brother alleged, but she stands by her statement that the mayor threatened to kill her. And, she said, she wants prosecutors to file formal charges against him.

She said a petty dispute between her children and Nida on the trip is what caused the family fight.

The mayor, during the interview, said that while he is living the American dream, his reputation was ruined once he was handcuffed and led away to jail. He said he feels police discriminated against him.

Asked if he is planning to sue the Port of Seattle police, Saleem replied, “We are planning to, yes.”

The Port of Seattle Police Department said the officers felt there was probable cause for an arrest.

Saleem is accused of felony harassment, but the King County Prosecutor’s Office has not officially charged Saleem yet.