The U.S. government has agreed to pay 300,000 U.S. dollars to settle a lawsuit brought by an Egyptian swept up in the New York area after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
The Egyptian was among dozens of Muslim men that were swept up in the New York area after the attacks, held for months in a federal detention center in the city, and deported after being cleared of links to terrorism, the report said.
The settlement, filed in federal court late Monday, is the first the government has made in a number of lawsuits charging that noncitizens were abused and their constitutional rights violated in detentions after the terror attacks.
The settlement, which removes one of two plaintiffs from a case in which a federal judge ruled last year that former Attorney General John Ashcroft, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director Robert Mueller and other top government officials must answer questions under oath, requires approval by a federal judge in Brooklyn.
Lawyers for the government filed an appeal to that ruling last Friday. They said in the agreement that the official were not admitting any liability or fault, and in court papers, they said that the Sept. 11 attacks created "special factors," including the need to deter future terrorism, that outweighed the plaintiff's right to sue.
Lawyers representing the Egyptian and another plaintiff, a Pakistani, who is still pursuing the lawsuit, said the outcome was significant.
"This is a substantial settlement and shows for the first time that the government can be held accountable for the abuses that have occurred in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and in prisons right here in the United States," one of the lawyers was quoted as saying.
The lawsuit accuses Ashcroft, Mueller of personally conspiring to violate the rights of Muslim immigrant detainees on the basis of their race, religion and national origin, and names a score of other defendants, including Bureau of Prison officials and guards at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.
A 2003 report by the Justice Department's inspector general found widespread abuse of the noncitizen detainees at the Brooklyn center after the Sept. 11 attacks, and in recent months, 10 of the center's guards and supervisors have been disciplined, according to the report.