February 28, 2006

U.S. settles suit with Egyptian held after Sept 11

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. government has agreed to pay
$300,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by an Egyptian man among
hundreds of Muslims detained after the September 11 attacks,
his lawyer said on Tuesday.

The settlement agreed on Monday was the government's first
out of hundreds of class-action cases alleging abuse and
violations of constitutional rights in the aftermath of
September 11.

Federal authorities detained 762 non-citizens -- virtually
all Muslims or Arabs -- in the weeks after the attacks, and
none of them was found to have links with the suicide
hijackings or al Qaeda.

In Egyptian Ehab Elmaghraby's case, he was detained for
almost a year and when he was finally charged it was not with
terrorism but with credit card fraud.

One of the Egyptian man's lawyers drew parallels between
this case and detainee treatment in Iraq, Afghanistan and
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where U.S. war prisoners have been denied
the due process rights granted to criminal suspects.

"The government has to take responsibility for how it
detains people," said attorney Alex Reinert, part of the team
representing Elmaghraby, who used to run a restaurant in
Manhattan and now lives in Alexandria, Egypt.

The U.S. Justice Department declined to comment. Former
Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller
were among the defendants.

"All of the cases involve very fundamental issues of due
process and fair treatment. There was never any legitimate
evidence that he (Elmaghraby) had any connection to terrorism,
and that's true with the vast majority of these cases," Reinert

The government has defended its actions, saying
extraordinary measures were required for national security.

The government admitted no wrongdoing, which is typical
when a lawsuit is settled.

Elmaghraby was one of two plaintiffs in the suit. The
other, a Pakistani man named Javaid Iqbal, is still pursuing
his case.

Both were held for nearly a year and allege they were
beaten while shackled, cursed as terrorists and subjected to
repeated and unnecessary body-cavity searches.