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U.S. Strikes Back | Rights

Many Held in Terror Probe Report Rights Being Abused

October 15, 2001|RICHARD A. SERRANO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dennis Clare, a lawyer in Louisville, Ky., said 40 immigrants from the West African nation of Mauritania were picked up near Cincinnati on immigration violations two weeks after Sept. 11. They had moved to the area after coming to the U.S. to escape police brutality in their homeland.

Authorities were interested in the group because one of them supposedly was a pilot. Thirty-seven of the men were subsequently released, and while Clare represents the remaining three, he has yet to meet with them.

The men have been moved several times to jails in Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Louisiana.

"They don't speak English," Clare said. "They are begging to get out of jail."

Hasnain Javed, a Pakistani who came to the U.S. to study, was picked up Sept. 19 at the bus station in Mobile, Ala., on his way back to New York from Houston.

Javed, 20, admitted in an interview that he had overstayed his visa by more than two years. He was taken to the county jail in Wiggins, Miss., which houses INS detainees under a federal contract.

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 slogans.

"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.' "

Sheriff Blames Inmate for His Mistreatment

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.

He was later transferred to a jail in New Orleans, and was released after spending three days in custody. "I did not do anything and I don't think anyone had a right to treat me the way I was treated."

The FBI and the U.S. attorney's office in Mississippi are investigating the matter as a potential hate crime. But Stone County Sheriff Mike Ballard, who runs the Wiggins jail, insisted that "we did everything we could do" to help Javed.

The sheriff added 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."

In Brooklyn, N.Y., Mohammed Maddy--a former ticket-taker at John F. Kennedy International Airport--was picked up Oct. 3. He was charged with sneaking his wife and children past security there Sept. 10--the day before the terrorist strikes.

At a federal detention hearing, his attorney, Justine Harris, complained that Maddy was injured by guards at the city's Metropolitan Detention Center.

"The defendant showed me a very large bruise which he has on the upper part of his arm, which he claims was a result of mistreatment by the guards," Harris told the judge, according to a transcript of the hearing.

Magistrate Steven M. Gold ordered photographs taken of Maddy, and Asst. U.S. Atty. Gregory Andres said in an interview that "it's something obviously we are going to investigate."

With Maddy still in jail, Andres declined to say whether officials were investigating him in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks. He noted, however, that the 44-year-old native of Egypt allegedly had threatened to kill his wife if she did not bring their children here.

Also in New York, five young Israelis were detained Sept. 11 after they were seen taking photographs of the World Trade Center rubble shortly after the airplane attacks.

"They behaved in a way that seemed suspicious to a neighbor, who called the FBI," said Ido Aharoni, a spokesman for the Israeli Consulate in New York. The men, including one who was mistaken for an Arab, are being detained on immigration violations.

According to diplomats at the Israeli Embassy in Washington and the consulate in New York, the detainees said they were blindfolded when they were questioned, handcuffed in their cells and ordered to take polygraph tests.

Aharoni said the Israeli government is deeply concerned about their treatment. "We haven't been able to get clear answers from the authorities on what is going on," he said.

There have been numerous allegations of people kept from meeting with their attorneys.

According to the law, defendants charged with a crime are entitled to an appointed attorney if they cannot afford to hire their own. In immigration court, detainees are told that they may hire a lawyer, but that one is not automatically assigned to them.

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