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Federal court: post-9/11 detainee lawsuit against federal officials dismissed

A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York [official website] on Tuesday dismissed [text, PDF] a lawsuit against federal law enforcement officials by men who claim they were illegally detained after 9/11 [JURIST backgrounder]. The suit is Turkmen v. Ashcroft [CCR backgrounder]. The court dismissed the suit against former Department of Justice [official website] officials John Ashcroft, Robert Mueller and James Zigler, noting that the plaintiffs failed to sufficiently state a claim that the officials had incurred any supervisory liability. However, the ruling does permit further proceedings against wardens and detention officials from the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn [official website] based on the treatment the men received after they were detained, including preventing their contact with families and video-taping conversations with lawyers. The plaintiffs in the case have been represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) [advocacy website].

The Turkmen case has been winding its way through the federal court system for years. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] in December 2009 that post-arrest detention is legal in cases where the detainees are reasonably detained. In November 2009, five men who claimed they were similarly illegally detained reached a settlement agreement [JURIST report] with the US government for $1.26 million. In 2007, a district court judge granted the government's motion to dismiss [text, PDF] a number of the claims, but refused to dismiss the abuse claims. Also in 2007, the government charged [JURIST report] several guards at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn official website], the location in which men were detained, with abusing prisoners.

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