Judge clears DoJ over post-9/11 confinement of Muslims

Federal court rules immigrants subjected to harsh confinement can't proceed with suit against federal officials

By Natasha Lennard
January 19, 2013 2:45AM (UTC)
main article image

A federal judge ruled Thursday that a lawsuit against Department of Justice officials brought by men detained for immigration violations in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 cannot proceed.

The men, whose complaints were brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights, are immigrants in the U.S. who hail from from Pakistan, Egypt, Algeria and Turkey, as well as natives of India and Nepal. "In the weeks following the attacks, they said they were held in federal custody on the pretext of minor immigration violations while the FBI investigated them for potential links to terrorism," Reuters reported.


The dismissed complaint claimed that former U.S. attorney general John Ashcroft, FBI director Robert Mueller and former Immigration and Naturalization Service commissioner James Ziglar oversaw federal policies which led to the men's harsh detention. However, on Thursday the judge ruled that although the men were certainly detained on the basis of "race, religion and national origin," the federal officials named in the suit did not intend to discriminate.

The judge did, however, rule that complaints against five former Metropolitan Detention Center wardens and officials who oversaw the detention could proceed. "Claims based on alleged harsh conditions of confinement and unlawful strip searches and that the officers had engaged in a conspiracy to violate the rights of detainees were deemed to be valid," reported Kevin Gozstola.

The detainees, who had only committed minor immigration infractions, were held in small cells for 23 hours a day and fed "meager and barely edible" meals. According to court filings, prison wardens left bright lights on in the cells at all hours and subjected the men to other physical abuse including, “slamming the MDC Detainees into walls; bending or twisting their arms, hands, wrists, and fingers; lifting them off the ground by their arms; pulling on their arms and handcuffs; stepping on their leg restraints; restraining them with handcuffs and/or shackles even while in their cells; and handling them in other rough and inappropriate ways.”


Despite the fact that federal officials created “hold-until-cleared" policies, which provided the conditions for these prima facie discriminatory practives, the DoJ was cleared of wrongdoing while the direct implementers of their policies remain the sole target of the class action.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

MORE FROM Natasha LennardFOLLOW natashalennardLIKE Natasha Lennard

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

9/11 Arabs Civil Rights Department Of Justice Discrimination Muslims September 11