A New York federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday that a group of immigrants who were held for months for immigration violations following Sept. 11, 2001, are allowed to sue top-level Bush Administration officials for constitutional violations, including racial profiling.
In a 2-1 ruling, the three-judge panel on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a 2002 lawsuit, Turkmen v. Ashcroft, can go forward.
The eight male plaintiffs in the lawsuit were arrested for immigration violations and held following 9/11 as part of the government’s efforts to apprehend suspected terrorists, The Wall Street Journal reports. The men — Ibrahim Turkmen, Akhil Sachdeva, Ahmer Iqbal Abbasi, Anser Mehmood, Benamar Benatta, Ahmed Khalifa, Saeed Hammouda and Purna Bajracharya — were held for various amounts of times in either New York or New Jersey reportedly solely because they were believed to be Muslim or Arab. All of the men were cleared of having terrorist ties and have since been deported to various countries.
The men originally filed a class action lawsuit in 2002 in a Brooklyn, New York, federal court against former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller, a former Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, James Ziglar, two Metropolitan Detention Center Wardens, and one Metropolitan Detention Center Associate Warden for Custody.
The Turkmen v. Ashcroft lawsuit alleged that the government officials created the post-9/11 detention policies and should be held accountable for the alleged abuses, as well as the fact that they knew there was no legitimate reason to suspect the men of being tied to terrorism.
The case was dismissed in 2013, after a federal court ruled that the officials had no "intent to punish" the plaintiffs, RT.com reports. The ruling on Wednesday reverses that decision.
In the 109-page majority decision by Judges Rosemary Pooler and Richard Wesley, the plaintiffs were found to have cause to sue the officials, reports The Hill.
“We simply cannot conclude at this stage that concern for the safety of our nation justified the violation of the constitutional rights on which this nation was built,” the Judges’ wrote.
“The question at this stage of the litigation is whether the [eight foreigners arrested on immigration charges] have plausibly pleaded that the [government officials] exceeded the bounds of the Constitution in the wake of 9/11,” the Judges’ wrote. “We believe that they have.”
The lawsuit is now capable of moving forward.
“The Constitution defines the limits of the Defendants’ authority,” the Judges’ wrote, “detaining individuals as if they were terrorists, in the most restrictive conditions of confinement available, simply because these individuals were, or appeared to be, Arab or Muslim exceeds those limits.”
The plaintiffs lead lawyer, Rachel Meeropol of the Center for Constitutional Rights, praised the Judges’ ruling.
“It’s huge that they allowed these claims to move forward,” Meeropol said. “It’s taken 13 years for us to get the green light from a court to actually move forward against [the officials] individually.”
A Justice Department spokeswoman said a review of the court’s decision is occurring. She declined to state whether the department would appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.
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