Visa detainees allege beatings - Guardian, UK
- Visa detainees allege beatings
Brooklyn jail investigated in wake of September 11
Oliver Burkeman in New York
Friday May 24, 2002
The US justice department is investigating claims that
many of the hundreds of Middle Eastern men detained in
American jails after September 11 have been beaten and
verbally abused by prison guards.
The inspector general, Glenn Fine, the justice
department's internal watchdog, is conducting a
"review of allegations" after lawyers representing
some of the men still in detention said their clients
had been kicked and punched.
Some detainees say abuse at the metropolitan detention
centre in Brooklyn intensified after they cooperated
with the initial investigation by the inspector
At least two began a hunger strike this week, their
lawyers said. Many are being held for visa-related
violations and have not been charged with a crime.
"They have been struck physically, strip-searched,
deliberately stopped from praying; they've been cuffed
behind their backs, picked up by their thumbs and
dragged from one place to another," said Sandra
Nicholls, representing two current detainees. "They
feel they are suffering reprisals because they talked
to the inspector general."
One inmate said he was told: "Now you're suffering
like the people in the towers suffered." Two others
recently deported had been physically abused before
being put in solitary confinement, their lawyer,
Martin Stolar, said.
One was "picked up and thrown from corner to corner of
his cell while being accused of involvement in
September 11," Mr Stolar said,
The second was "knocked around, pushed into a wall by
[immigration service] agents, and kept in solitary
confinement [for] 23 hours a day, lights on all the
time, subject to verbal abuse [about his religion]".
Dennis Hasty, the detention centre's warden, was
unavailable for comment yesterday.
Some basic privileges, such as the provision of
pillows, were granted to the general prison population
but not to the detainees, Ms Nicholls alleged.
"The murderers get this stuff and these people, who
haven't been charged with anything, don't," she said.
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, about 1,200
non-US nationals were detained for visa-related
violations. While a handful did have connections to
the hijackers, none has been charged with involvement
in those atrocities.
Amnesty International has condemned the "extreme
secrecy" with which the detentions have been handled,
accusing the immigration and naturalisation service of
violating international law.
The American Civil Liberties Union has brought a case
against several counties where detainees are being
held, accusing them of illegally withholding their
Another organisation, the Centre for Constitutional
Rights, is suing the bureau of prisons in New York on
the inmates' behalf.
Some of the remaining detainees, almost all of whom
are being held in Brooklyn and two New Jersey jails,
have agreed to voluntary deportation, but are still
held for months, according to Drum, a campaigning
organisations which holds weekly protests outside the
One lawyer spoke of a four-month wait, even after a
detainee had agreed to leave the country and the
lawyer had bought his airline ticket.
"Families are being torn apart," said Monami Maulik,
an immigrant rights organiser at Drum. "These people
are being isolated, often not allowed access to legal
assistance. This is racial profiling - the targeting
and arresting of immigrants. We want answers."
Detention for minor immigration violations is almost
unheard of, but an INS spokesman denied that the
policy had been applied in a biased way.
"The actions taken are based upon the 9/11
investigation - period," Russ Bergeron said. "Not
their ethnicity. Not their nationality. Not their
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