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Federal appeals court allows ex-9/11 detainee to sue Ashcroft, Mueller

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] Thursday that Javaid Iqbal, who alleges he was detained "solely because of [his] race, religion, and national origin" following the September 11 terrorist attacks [JURIST news archive] and subjected to mistreatment during detention, can proceed with civil lawsuits against former Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and other government officials. The court, while recognizing the "gravity of the situation [that government officials faced" as a consequence of the 9/11 attack," nevertheless held that constitutional rights, such as "the right not to be subjected to needlessly harsh conditions of confinement, the right to be free from the use of excessive force, and the right not to be subjected to ethnic or religious discrimination" must enjoy "steadfast protection" in both "normal" and "unusual times." The court rejected arguments presented by government officials that they could not be held personally liable because they had acted reasonably and therefore shielded by qualified immunity.

Approximately 762 foreign nationals, mainly Arab Muslim men [ACLU backgrounder], were arrested across the US after the September 11 attacks. Iqbal, and another former detainee and co-petitioner, Ehab Elmanghraby, were among 184 individuals held in maximum-security detention. Iqbal alleges he was held in solitary confinement for more than 150 days without judicial hearing. Elmanghraby has settled [JURIST report] his complaint against the government for $300,000. AP has more. Reuters has additional coverage.

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