WASHINGTON – The U.S. government has agreed to pay $300,000 to an Egyptian man who sued after he was detained for nearly a year following the Sept. 11 attacks, his lawyer said.
The settlement was filed Monday in federal court in Brooklyn, said attorney Haeyoung Yoon, who represents Ehab Elmaghraby. She said she believed it was the first settlement involving claims from people detained after Sept. 11.
"Despite the fact that the U.S. admitted no wrongdoing, they are compensating Mr. Elmaghraby for the injuries he suffered," Yoon said.
Voicemail boxes for the Department of Justice were full Monday night and could not accept messages from The Associated Press.
Elmaghraby, a former restaurant worker, was held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn from October 2001 until August 2002, Yoon said. He was cleared of allegations he had terrorist ties but was deported in August 2003 after pleading guilty to credit card fraud.
Elmaghraby told The Associated Press he was satisfied with the settlement, even though the government didn't admit any wrongdoing. "They know what they did," he said by phone from Egypt.
The settlement, first reported by The New York Times, must be approved by a federal judge. A case against the government by another former detainee, Pakistani immigrant Javaid Iqbal, continues.
In a lawsuit filed in August 2004, the men claimed their rights were violated in U.S. custody and sought compensatory damages. They argued the government would not let them appeal their solitary confinement in a special unit of the detention center.
The lawsuit named former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and other high-ranking federal officials.
The men said they were shackled, shoved into walls, punched and called various epithets. They also alleged they were kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day and denied adequate meals and medical care.
Yoon said his client was subjected to repetitive strip searches and was violated during a body-cavity search. His thyroid condition was misdiagnosed as asthma, she said. Elmaghraby wanted to continue with the lawsuit but settled because of mounting medical costs, she said.
In September, a federal judge rejected Ashcroft's attempt to block the men's lawsuit by claiming that the threat of terrorism exempts the government from following peacetime regulations.
More than 80 men were classified as suspected terrorists and held in high-security cells at the Brooklyn facility between Sept. 14, 2001, and Aug. 27, 2002.
A separate class-action lawsuit was filed in Brooklyn federal court in 2002 on behalf of hundreds of detainees in Brooklyn and New Jersey.
In that lawsuit, the Center for Constitutional Rights alleged that Ashcroft and other officials subjected prisoners to excessively harsh conditions though they had not been charged with crimes.