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Detainees alleging sedation settle suit

The two foreign nationals will get a total of $55,000. One of them can stay in the U.S. for two years.

January 30, 2008|Paloma Esquivel | Times Staff Writer

Two foreign nationals who said they were forcibly drugged by U.S. immigration officials during failed efforts to deport them have agreed to a settlement in the case, their attorney said Tuesday.

In exchange for dropping the lawsuit, Amadou Diouf, a native of Senegal, will get $50,000, and Raymond Soeoth of Indonesia will receive $5,000 and be allowed to stay in the United States for at least two years, said Ahilan Arulanantham, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

The ACLU filed the case jointly with the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson.

Soeoth, who was appealing his case for political asylum, alleged in the lawsuit that he had been sedated with anti-psychotic drugs in December 2004 at a San Pedro detention facility. Diouf, who also was pursuing an appeal for permanent legal status, said he was medicated in February 2006 while on a commercial plane at Los Angeles International Airport.

Soeoth and Diouf became friends while being held for nearly two years at the Terminal Island detention facility in San Pedro.

They reluctantly accepted the settlement when Soeoth and his wife lost their immigration appeal and were threatened with deportation, Diouf said.

Soeoth, a Christian, fled his predominantly Muslim country in 1999 to escape religious persecution and "greatly feared returning to Indonesia," Arulanantham said.

Earlier this month, immigration officials said they would no longer forcibly sedate foreign nationals without a federal court order.

At the time, ACLU lawyers promised to move forward with the lawsuit to gain compensation for Soeoth and Diouf and to force the government to release more information about how long the sedation policy existed and how many people were involuntarily medicated.

The settlement could make it more difficult to force the government to release details about its sedation policy, Arulanantham said.

The settlement reached Monday "does not constitute admission of wrongdoing by the government," but it does "reflect the fact that ICE has changed its policy regarding medical escorts for detainees," said Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice.

Diouf said the settlement helped Soeoth, but wasn't ideal. "I wanted them to acknowledge they were wrong, which they have not done," he said.

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paloma.esquivel@latimes.com

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