The American Civil Liberties Union has settled a lawsuit against the U.S. government and its post 9/11 tactic to imprison Muslim men as material witnesses without any evidence or reason to hold them in the first place.
Kansas native and U.S. citizen Abdullah al-Kidd, a former football player at the University of Idaho, was arrested on a material witness warrant in 2003 and imprisoned without charges for 16 days, because the FBI wanted him to testify in a visa fraud case. He was moved to three different federal facilities, sometimes held naked and in shackles, and ultimately Al-Kidd was never charged with any crimes or called to testify against another person.
From the ACLU:
The Fourth Amendment prohibits the arrest of criminal suspects without probable cause to believe they have committed a crime. Yet after 9/11, former Attorney General John Ashcroft and the U.S. Department of Justice implemented a policy of misusing the federal “material witness” statute to detain Muslim men for investigative purposes without probable cause to believe that they’d committed any crime.
Yesterday, al-Kidd received a letter that, among other things, said: "The government acknowledges that your arrest and detention as a witness was a difficult experience for you and regrets any hardship or disruption to your life that may have resulted from your arrest and detention."
With the settlement—which comes a decade after the battle began, including one visit to the U.S. Supreme Court and two to Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals—the federal government and FBI agents involved in al-Kidd's wrongful arrest have agreed to pay al-Kidd $385,000.
"The government systematically abused the material witness process after September 11," said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, in a statement. "This settlement and the court opinions detailing the government’s unlawful actions will hopefully deter future such abuses."
For a timeline of the case, click here