A Canadian detained in the U.S. with hundreds of Arab or Muslim men after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks testified Monday that he was jailed in harsh conditions and terrorized by snarling dogs before being cleared of terrorist links.
Akil Sachveda, a native of India but now a Canadian citizen, is one of seven Arab or Muslim men named in the class-action federal lawsuit filed by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights against senior U.S. officials, including FBI Director Robert Mueller and former Attorney General John Ashcroft.
The group says some 1,200 to 2,000 Muslim men, mostly from the Middle East or South Asia, were illegally detained without charge or legal representation during the sweep of arrests in an attempt to find those behind the Sept. 11 attacks.
The lawsuit claims the men were mostly picked up on minor administrative, visa or passport violations and that they were held with violent criminals because of their religion or nationality and were routinely terrorized by unmuzzled, barking dogs.
“These men were not charged with any crimes and yet they were treated like criminals,” said Bill Goodman, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Seeks monetary damage for pain, suffering
Sachveda was being deposed in Toronto on Monday in a closed court session; his lawyers said he could not comment until he finished testifying later in the week, but that his testimony would offer details laid out in the lawsuit about his treatment at the Passaic County Jail, where Sachveda was detained from December 2001 to April 2002. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages for pain and suffering by the immigrant detainees who were released after being cleared of any terrorist links.
The Passaic County Sheriff’s Department, which runs the jail, said the lawsuit was unjustified and that dogs are only used to sniff out contraband or maintain security.
“Their accusations are not based on the truth, but on their desire to win a lawsuit,” said spokesman Bill Maer. He added that dogs were not allowed “anywhere near” the immigrant detainees since the Department of Homeland Security banned their use to control immigrant detainees in December 2004.
The Justice Department did not immediately return calls regarding the lawsuit.
The United States military has come under harsh criticism for the treatment of Iraqi prisoners at the now-notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad and one soldier was recently sentenced to six months in prison for using snarling dogs to frighten prisoners.