Inside the nation’s jails, some of the 700 people
detained as part of the investigation into the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have endured beatings, have been denied access to lawyers and otherwise deprived of their rights, according to defense attorneys, civil rights organizations and some government officials.
WASHINGTON – Inside the nation’s jails, some of the 700 people detained as part of the investigation into the Sept. 11 terrorist
attacks have endured beatings, have been denied access to lawyers and otherwise deprived of their rights, according to defense attorneys, civil rights organizations and some government officials.
In Mississippi, a 20-year-old student from Pakistan said he was stripped and beaten in his cell by inmates who were angry about the attacks, while jail guards failed to intervene or give him proper
medical care. The FBI is investigating the allegation.
In New York, prosecutors are investigating an Egyptian detainee’s courtroom allegations of abuse by a guard, and the Israeli consulate
is concerned about five Jewish Israelis who say they were blindfolded, handcuffed in their cells and forced to take polygraph tests.
In Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana, U.S. immigration officials cut off all lawyer visits and phone calls for detainees for a full week after
the attacks, a directive that officials now say was mishandled.
And in Texas, a man from Saudi Arabia initially was denied an attorney and was deprived of a mattress, a blanket, a drinking cup and a clock
to let him know when to recite his Muslim prayers, his lawyer said.
It appears unlikely that any of the detainees in these cases played a role in the attacks on the World Trade Center or the Pentagon.
According to their attorneys, none of them are being held as a material witness; two have been released.
Officials have said that, of the 700, only a few have links to the terrorism investigation. The
vast majority were swept up on immigration violations or state and local charges.
Judges are denying bond, closing hearings and sealing documents. Prosecutors are refusing to divulge what is occurring behind closed
doors in jails and courtrooms.
Even defense attorneys often do not
know what is happening to their clients, or they refuse to discuss them.
Because of the extraordinary level of secrecy surrounding the investigation, it is impossible to determine how many individuals have been mistreated. Federal authorities refuse to disclose even the number of people in custody.
Civil liberties groups are growing increasingly concerned, and also worry about even more enhanced law enforcement authority in a new
anti-terrorism bill approved by Congress last week.
Hussein Sadruddin, head of a Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights in Dallas, said that detainees are being targeted because they are Middle
Easterners. "People are going after these detainees because it feels like they are doing something for their country," he said.
Sheriff Blames Inmate for His Mistreatment
Hasnain Javed, a Pakistani who came to the U.S. to study, was picked up Sept. 19 at the bus station in Mobile, Alabama. Javed, 20, admitted in an interview that he had overstayed his visa by
more than two years.
Javed was placed in a large jail dormitory, where he said other inmates told him they did not want him in there. They told him they were going to tell the guards that he had shouted anti-American
"They slammed me in the face and chipped off my tooth," he said. "I started crying."
He said he used an intercom to try to tell guards he was being attacked.
"I told the lady: ‘Please try to get me out of here. They’re beating me up. They’re going to kill me.’
"But I didn’t get any response, I was beaten even more. They were punching me and kicking me.
"My left ear, I can’t even hear completely now. . . . They started calling me names. Names like terrorist or something like that. And I told them, ‘Why, why, why? I had nothing to do with this.’"
That night, he said, he was pulled from his bunk, stripped naked, pinned to the ground and beaten again. "I was crying and shouting,
and the officers still did not show up."
He said guards eventually took him to a first aid station, where he was given an ice pack and two aspirins.
Stone County Sheriff Mike Ballard, who runs the Wiggins jail, insisted that Javed brought the assault upon himself. "He was making
derogatory comments about the United States," the sheriff said."That’s what our investigation showed."
Author: Richard A. Serrano
News Service: Los Angeles Times – October 15 2001