Canadian among former detainees in U.S. jails who claim harsh conditions, terror of dogs |

Canadian among former detainees in U.S. jails who claim harsh conditions, terror of dogs

TORONTO – Hundreds of mostly Muslim men detained in New York and New Jersey after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were jailed under harsh conditions and terrorized by snarling dogs, lawyers for a Canadian caught up in a U.S. sweep claimed Monday.Akhil Sachdeva, a Hindu native of India who is now a Canadian citizen, is one of seven men named in a class-action U.S. federal lawsuit against senior U.S. officials, including FBI Director Robert Mueller and former Attorney General John Ashcroft.Sachdeva, who was detained at Passaic County Jail in northern New Jersey from December 2001 to April 2002 before being cleared of terrorist links and deported to Canada, attended a closed-door deposition by U.S. government attorneys in Toronto on Monday. His lawyers said he could not comment publicly until he concluded his testimony later in the week, but that he was expected to give details laid out in the lawsuit about his treatment at the jail.The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, which filed the lawsuit, says some 1,200 to 2,000 mostly Muslim men, mostly from the Middle East or South Asia, were illegally detained without charge or legal representation during the sweep of arrests in an attempt to find those behind the attacks.The lawsuit claims the men were mostly picked up on minor administrative, visa or passport violations and that they were held with violent criminals because of their religion or nationality and were routinely terrorized by unmuzzled, barking dogs. The men were held mostly in the Metropolitan Detention Center in New York and and the Passaic County Jail.”These men were not charged with any crimes and yet they were treated like criminals,” Bill Goodman, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said Monday.The lawsuit filed in federal court in New York seeks monetary damages for pain and suffering by the immigrant detainees who were released after being cleared of any terrorist links.The jail became one of the United States’ largest immigrant detention centers after the Sept. 11 attacks, eventually holding nearly 500 detainees. That surge was followed by hunger strikes and other protests charging mistreatment and crowding.The Passaic County Sheriff’s Department, which runs the jail, said the lawsuit was unjustified and that K-9 dog units are only used to sniff out contraband or maintain security.”Their accusations are not based on the truth, but on their desire to win a lawsuit,” said spokesman Bill Maer. He added that dogs were not allowed “anywhere near” the immigrant detainees since the Department of Homeland Security banned their use to control immigrant detainees in December 2004.Charles Miller, a Justice Department spokesman, declined comment on the lawsuit.The United States military has come under harsh criticism for the treatment of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. One soldier was recently sentenced to six months in prison for using snarling dogs to frighten prisoners.Vail, Colorado

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