Six men who alleged they were abused while being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn in the months following the September 11th, 2001 attacks have arrived at a $98,000 settlement with the former warden, Dennis Hasty, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, which announced the agreement.
The settlement includes no admission of wrongdoing, but the agreement provides that each of the men also receive a letter acknowledging a Department of Justice determination that the “detainees were held in excessively restrictive and unduly harsh conditions of confinement and a number of individuals were physically and verbally abused by certain MDC officers,” according to the CCR announcement.
A spokesperson for the Federal Bureau of Prisons said it would not comment on the settlement, among a host of legal actions brought by local Muslim, Arab and Hindu plaintiffs who were rounded up and detained following the 9/11 attacks, without having any connection to the terrorist attacks.
Rachel Meeropol, a senior staff attorney with the CCR, which represented the plaintiffs in litigation against the federal government, said the detainees were “systemically abused, physically and mentally.”
“They were held this way for months, with no idea if they would ever be released, if they would ever be charged with a crime, or why they were even being held in the first place,” said Meeropol. “And you know, every single one was found to have no connection to 9/11.”
They were held this way for months, with no idea if they would ever be released, if they would ever be charged with a crime, or why they were even being held in the first place.
The settlement will be divided among the six men, with the Federal Bureau of Prisons providing the funds to Hasty, enabling him to settle the claims, according to the CCR. Hasty, who at the time headed the MDC, was accused of allowing and encouraging abuse by guards under his supervision. He could not be reached for comment.
Meeropol acknowledged that the figure, which amounts to $16,000 or $17,000 for each person, is “minimal” and that “the result looks nothing like justice.” But she said a recent Supreme Court decision in the case of Egbert v. Boule “made it even harder for victims of constitutional violations to sue federal officers for money damages.”
The letters acknowledging the Department of Justice’s determination are to come from BOP Director Michael Carvajal, according to the CCR.
The six plaintiffs are Ahmer Iqbal Abbasi, Anser Mehmood, Benamar Benatta, Ahmed Khalifa, Saeed Hammouda, and Purna Raj Bajracharya, all of whom were deported to their home countries after being released from detention.
According to the Associated Press, more than a thousand men were arrested in sweeps after the September 11th attacks and held in restrictive conditions. The abuse, according to CCR, extended to dozens of other detainees and included solitary confinement although many were only charged with overstaying their visa.
“Among other documented abuses, including beatings, forced sleep deprivation, and racial and religious slurs, many of the victims had their faces smashed into a wall where guards had pinned a T-shirt with a picture of an American flag and the words ‘These colors don’t run,’” said the CCR.
One of the plaintiffs, Purna Raj Bajracharya, was originally from Nepal. He arrived on a three month business visa in 1996 and overstayed his visa, remaining in Queens for the next five years, according to the plaintiffs.
“In my free time, I used to see movies in the theater,” he said in an interview posted on the website of CCR. “I took photographs and videos; I wanted my family to see them and know how big America is.”
On October 25th, 2001, an employee at the Queens District Attorney’s office observed an “Arab male” shooting a video outside a federal building. Bajracharya was questioned and although the FBI soon cleared him of any terrorism charges, he was held in detention for two more months.
“Overstaying my visa was my mistake,” said Bajracharya, “and I could not convince them I was otherwise innocent, though I cried and cried and cried.”