Sunday, 27 February 2011

Supreme Court to hear case of detained Muslim

Supreme_CourtHandcuffed and marched through Washington's Dulles International Airport in his Muslim clothing, the man with the long beard could only imagine what people were thinking. That scene unfolded in March 2003, a year and a half after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. One of the four planes hijacked in 2001 took off from Dulles. "I could only assume that they thought I was a terrorist," Abdullah al-Kidd recalled in an interview with The Associated Press.Kidd called his airport arrest "one of the most, if not the most, humiliating experiences of my life."
Over the next 16 days he would be strip-searched repeatedly, left naked in a jail cell and shower for more than 90 minutes in view of other men and women, and kept with people who had been convicted of violent crimes.

In the midst of Kidd's detention, FBI Director Robert Mueller testified to Congress about recent major successes against terrorism. No. 1 on Mueller's list was the capture of professed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

No. 2 was the arrest of Kidd, a Kansas-born convert to Islam who was not charged with a crime.

Eight years later, the Supreme Court is weighing whether Kidd's arrest and detention violated the Fourth Amendment's prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures. The court, which will hear arguments Wednesday, also is being asked to decide whether former Attorney General John Ashcroft can be held personally liable for his role in setting the policy that led to Kidd's arrest.

Kidd, now 38, was one of about 70 men, almost all Muslims, who were arrested and held in the years after Sept. 11 under a federal law meant to compel reluctant witnesses to testify.

The material witness law has existed in some form since 1789. But after Sept. 11, Kidd argues in his lawsuit, federal authorities began using it to hold someone suspected of ties to terrorism even when they had insufficient evidence that the person had committed a crime.

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