A lawsuit may not proceed against former attorney general John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller by Arab Muslims who were seized in the U.S. after the 2001 terrorist attacks and allege harsh treatment because of their religion and ethnicity, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 today, according to the Washington Post. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority that the top officials are not liable for the actions of their subordinates absent evidence that they ordered the allegedly discriminatory activity.
The suit was filed by Javaid Iqbal, a Pakistani citizen living legally in the U.S. when he was arrested after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He was held in solitary confinement in part of a Brooklyn prison known as Admax-Shu, for “administrative maximum special housing unit,” where he said he was subjected to beatings and strip searches. He was convicted of document fraud and deported to Pakistan but cleared of involvement in terrorism. An Egyptian Muslim who was also part of the suit settled with the government for $300,000. Similar cases are pending.