Supreme Court to hear Ashcroft case

Justices to decide if ex-attorney general, others can be sued for post-9/11 actions

June 17, 2008|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court came to the aid of former Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday and agreed to decide whether he and other high-level Bush administration officials are shielded from being sued by immigrants who say they were rounded up, beaten and abused after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The court voted to hear Ashcroft's claim that he and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III are immune from lawsuits for their official actions.

A federal judge and the U.S. appeals court in New York had cleared the way for a Pakistani man to press his lawsuit against the people who were running the Justice Department in 2001.

Javaid Iqbal was arrested at his Long Island, N.Y., home on Nov. 2, 2001. He says he was beaten and abused over the next six months. No charges were filed against him, and he was released and deported to Pakistan.

He filed a lawsuit against Ashcroft, Mueller and other officials, alleging that they violated his constitutional rights by subjecting him to abuse and by discriminating against him because of his religion and nationality.

Ashcroft was in the charge of the Justice Department and U.S. immigration service in 2001, and he and Mueller led the government's drive to arrest and question several hundred immigrants who were suspected of having ties to the network of hijackers.

Iqbal initially was held on a charge of credit card fraud, but he was cleared of any link to terrorism.

Under long-standing laws, people in the United States can sue officials who knowingly violate their rights under the Constitution.

The judge and the appeals court refused to dismiss Iqbal's suit, ruling that if his complaint were true, his constitutional rights might have been violated, and that Iqbal and his lawyers should be permitted to question Ashcroft and Mueller under oath.

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