Former detainee details abuse

Javaid Iqbal’s lawyers say the Pakistani cable repairman was snatched in the post-September 11 dragnet and held for over a year at a Brooklyn detention center, where guards beat him mercilessly.

Iqbal, like hundreds of Muslims or Arabs detained in the days after the attacks but never charged, sued the U.S. government, saying that he was held and abused for no legitimate reason.

His case was heard on Wednesday by a federal appeals court in Manhattan.

The court’s three-judge panel will decide to overturn or let stand a lower court’s ruling that allows Iqbal’s lawyers to seek information from former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller, former Bureau of Prisons head Kathleen Hawk Sawyer and Metropolitan Detention Center officials to find out what they knew about the alleged abuse.

Gregory G. Garre, a U.S. Department of Justice lawyer representing Ashcroft and Mueller, said the chaos surrounding September 11 made it unclear what the law was and that Iqbal’s complaint does not properly show his clients’ involvement.

Alex Reinert, Iqbal’s lawyer, said the suit was to remedy abuse. "The government can’t be allowed to reflexively target people on the basis of race, religion and national origin even in times of chaos," the lawyer said.

Federal authorities detained 762 non-citizens — almost all Muslims or Arabs — in the weeks after the attacks as part of a sweeping counterterrorism effort.

The U.S. government in February paid $300,000 to settle with Iqbal’s co-plaintiff and fellow detainee Ehab Elmaghraby, an Egyptian, although it did not admit wrongdoing.

Elmaghraby, who owned a restaurant in Manhattan, also said he was abused in the high security unit of the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. Aside from repeated body-cavity searches and beatings while shackled, Elmaghraby said guards stuck a flashlight into his anus.

The center was cited in a 2003 report by the Justice Department’s inspector general for gross detainee abuse.

"They kept the lights in his cell on 24 hours a day, he was strip-searched repeatedly, beaten, dragged across the floor, and given one hour of exercise out of his cell and that was in a small cage," Reinert said of Iqbal.

Iqbal said he lost nearly 40 pounds (18 kg) and suffered depression after his detention. Shortly after his release in 2003, Reinert said he pleaded guilty to having false social security papers and writing bad checks and served time in prison before being deported.

Like Elmaghraby, he had been cleared of any link to terrorism.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


  1. David Rosenberg

    Javiad Iqbal can only thank his lucky stars, not being sent some where overseas. The abuse he received is nothing compared to what could have been done to him elsewhere. If he was sent, he would not be telling his story today or any other day.
    This type of story will be heard over and over again, from any other person released from Federal custody. Those that have been abducted, under suspician only of terrorism, is their only safeguard not to be tortured any worse. If the detainors aren’t sure of their guilt chances are they will be released and torture will be modest.
    If there is any slim proof of a persons guilt, they probably will not be quite so fortunate. These prisoners will be at the mercy of the whims of Bush. He can order torture most severe. Mercy in these cases will not be an option. The level of mercy has never been measured in Bush. All they can hope for, the worse Bush has done is rip the wings off Flies. If he went further such as hanging small pets by their necks, to watch them die. These prisoners have but one option, put their heads between their legs, to kiss their ass good-bye.