Americans United in late December told the U.S. Supreme Court that top federal Department of Justice and immigration officials should face legal scrutiny for the unconstitutional detention and torture of Muslims living peacefully on American soil in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks.
AU, joined by the People For the American Way Foundation, filed a friend-of-the-court brief to ask the high court to allow a lawsuit to proceed against former attorney general John D. Ashcroft, former FBI director Robert Mueller and former commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service James W. Ziglar.
The three officials are among those accused of wrongfully detaining Muslims – or people perceived to be Muslim or Arab – during the investigation into potential terrorists following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Muslims living in the United States who had committed even trivial immigration infractions were swept up in the investigation. Even after they were cleared of involvement in terrorism, many were held for months, sometimes in solitary confinement.
Many were subjected to physical and psychological abuse, including beatings and sleep deprivation. They also were deprived of the ability to practice their faith, including denial of requested copies of the Quran and halal food. They weren’t even allowed to know the time of day so they could say their prayers.
AU contends these detainees were treated differently from others who had committed similar immigration infractions, such as entering the United States illegally or staying beyond the time allowed by their visas.
“To put it plainly, any reasonable law enforcement official – and even unreasonable ones – should have understood in 2001 that is unconstitutional to round people up, incarcerate them, place them in solitary confinement, harass and abuse them, and deny them the ability to worship and practice their faith, even after determining that they are not a security threat … all based on the detainees’ adherence to a disfavored religion and associated ethnicity,” AU’s brief asserts.
Americans United asked the Supreme Court to affirm the lower court’s ruling and allow the three consolidated cases, known as Ziglar v. Abbasi, to be heard on the merits. The high court was expected to hear arguments in January.