Turkmen v. Ashcroft

At a Glance

Current Status 

On June 17, 2015, the Second Circuit ruled in CCR’s favor, reinstating claims against high-level officials.

Date Filed: 

April 1, 2002

Co-Counsel 

Covington & Burling LLP, Michael Winger

Client 

Ibrahim Turkmen, Akil Sachveda, Anser Mehmood, Benamar Benatta, Ahmed Khalifa, Saeed Hammouda, Purna Bajracharya, Ahmer Abbasi

Case Description 

Turkmen v. Ashcroft is a civil rights lawsuit filed in 2002 on behalf of a class of Muslim, South Asian, and Arab non-citizens swept up by the INS and FBI in connection to the 9/11 investigation. Based solely on their race, religion, ethnicity and immigration status, hundreds of men were detained as “terrorism suspects” and held in brutal detention conditions for the many months it took the FBI and CIA to clear them of any connection to terrorism. They were then deported.

The case seeks to hold accountable high-level Bush administration officials, including former-Attorney General John Ashcroft and former-FBI Director Robert Mueller, for their role in ordering racial and religious profiling and abuse in detention, in violation of the detainees’ rights under the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution.  Plaintiffs were held in a specially-created Administrative Maximum Special Housing Unit (ADMAX SHU), in solitary confinement.  They were purposefully deprived of sleep, denied contact with the outside world, beaten and verbally abused, and denied the ability to practice their religion.  The former-wardens and other Metropolitan Detention Center officials who oversaw this abuse have also been named in the case.

In addition to compensatory and punitive damages sought by the plantiffs, Turkmen v. Ashcroft fits into CCR’s larger fight for immigrant rights, government accountability, and against illegal detentions and prisoner abuse.

 

Case Timeline

June 17, 2015

Second Circuit rules in CCR’s favor, reinstates claims against high-level officials

June 17, 2015

Second Circuit rules in CCR’s favor, reinstates claims against high-level officials

The court reinstated claims against former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former FBI director Robert Mueller, and former INS Commissioner James Ziglar  for their roles in the post-9/11 immigration detentions, abuse, and religious profiling of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian men. It is exceedingly rare for court to allow claims against such high-level officials to proceed.

May 1, 2014
CCR attorney Rachel Meeropol argues in front of Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
May 1, 2014
CCR attorney Rachel Meeropol argues in front of Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
Plaintiffs urged the federal court of appeals to allow their case to go forward against high-level Bush administration officials alleged to have ordered the post-9/11 immigration sweeps, detention, and racial and religious profiling of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian men.
January 15, 2013
The Court granted in part and denied in part the Motions to Dismiss.
January 15, 2013
The Court granted in part and denied in part the Motions to Dismiss.
March 11, 2011
Oral arguments on defendants' motions to dismiss were heard before District Court Judge Gleeson.
March 11, 2011
Oral arguments on defendants' motions to dismiss were heard before District Court Judge Gleeson.
CCR argued the suit meets the standards for holding federal officials accountable for civil rights violations articulated in the 2009 Supreme Court case Ashcroft v. Iqbal, a case also involving mistreatment of post 9/11 detainees. In that case the high court ruled that the plaintiff’s pleadings were not specific enough to bring an equal protection claim against high level government officials.
December 23, 2010
Plaintiffs filed their Opposition to Defendants' Motions to Dismiss.
December 23, 2010
Plaintiffs filed their Opposition to Defendants' Motions to Dismiss.
November 12, 2010
Defendants each moved to dismiss the Fourth Amended Complaint.
November 12, 2010
Defendants each moved to dismiss the Fourth Amended Complaint.
Defendants Salvatore LoPresti, Dennis Hasty, Michael Zenk, James Sherman, James Ziglar and John Ashcroft file separate motions to dismiss the Fourth Amended Complaint.
September 13, 2010
CCR filed the Fourth Amended Complaint. The complaint adds as potential class representatives six new plaintiffs: Ahmer Iqbal Abbasi, Anser Mehmood, Benamar Benatta, Ahmed Khalifa, Saeed Hammouda, and Purna Raj Bajracharya. It also adds new detail about the high level defendants’ (including former attorney general John Ashcroft’s) involvement in the conditions and abuse challenged by Plaintiffs.
September 13, 2010
CCR filed the Fourth Amended Complaint. The complaint adds as potential class representatives six new plaintiffs: Ahmer Iqbal Abbasi, Anser Mehmood, Benamar Benatta, Ahmed Khalifa, Saeed Hammouda, and Purna Raj Bajracharya. It also adds new detail about the high level defendants’ (including former attorney general John Ashcroft’s) involvement in the conditions and abuse challenged by Plaintiffs.
December 18, 2009

The Second Circuit issued opinion affirming the District Court's dismissal of plaintiffs’ claims regarding prolonged detention.

December 18, 2009

The Second Circuit issued opinion affirming the District Court's dismissal of plaintiffs’ claims regarding prolonged detention.

The Court vacated the balance of the District Court’s decision, regarding abusive conditions of confinement, and remanded the case to the District Court to consider Plaintiffs’ motion to amend the complaint and to apply the new pleading standard created in Iqbal v. Ashcroft.
November 3, 2009
Five plaintiffs held at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) settle claims.
November 3, 2009
Five plaintiffs held at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) settle claims.

CCR announced that the five MDC plaintiffs had settled their claims against the United States for 1.26 million dollars. At the same time, CCR sought permission from the district court to amend the complaint to add five new plaintiffs.

July 21, 2009

Parties file supplemental briefs regarding the Supreme Court's decision in Iqbal.

May 18, 2009

Supreme Court rules in Iqbal v. Ashcroft.

May 18, 2009

Supreme Court rules in Iqbal v. Ashcroft.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court held that Iqbal had not included enough facts in his complaint to plausibly allege that former Attorney General Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller had a role in his discriminatory confinement and abuse.

October 31, 2008

Turkmen plaintiffs file amicus brief in the Supreme Court in support of plaintiffs in Iqbal v. Ashcroft.

October 31, 2008

Turkmen plaintiffs file amicus brief in the Supreme Court in support of plaintiffs in Iqbal v. Ashcroft.

Iqbal v. Ashcroft was a companion case to Turkmen brought on behalf of one non-citizen rounded up after 9/11, held on criminal charges, and abused in the same facility as many of the Turkmen plaintiffs. After the Supreme Court granted cert in Iqbal v. Ashcroft, the Turkmen plaintiffs filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court urging it to deny attempts by the high level officials to avoid accountability. That brief provided the Supreme Court with never before released documents gleaned through discovery, showing the involvement by former-Attorney General Ashcroft and FBI Director Mueller in the 9/11 sweeps.

February 14, 2008
CCR attorney Rachel Meeropol argued the appeal before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
February 14, 2008
CCR attorney Rachel Meeropol argued the appeal before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
April 12, 2007
The Department of Justice announced criminal indictments against eleven current and former MDC employees, including three of the Turkmen defendants.
April 12, 2007
The Department of Justice announced criminal indictments against eleven current and former MDC employees, including three of the Turkmen defendants.
The defendants were charged with physical attacks against MDC prisoners (not the 9-11 detainees) occurring between 2002 and 2006. Several defendants pled guilty and others went to trial. Ten of the eleven defendants were ultimately convicted.
April 7, 2007
Amicus Briefs filed in Support of Plaintiffs' Appeal.
April 7, 2007
Amicus Briefs filed in Support of Plaintiffs' Appeal.
Three amicus briefs were filed in support of Plaintiffs' cross-appeal.
January 24, 2007
Cross Appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals
June 14, 2006
Judge John Gleeson in the Eastern District of New York issued an opinion on defendants' motion to dismiss.
June 14, 2006
Judge John Gleeson in the Eastern District of New York issued an opinion on defendants' motion to dismiss.

After several years, Judge Gleeson decided the pending motions to dismiss. the judge dismissed the claims challenging plantiffs’ prolonged pretextual detention but allowed the conditions of confinement and racial and religious discrimination claims to proceed. CCR sought and received permission from the court to appeal the partial dismissal immediately.

May 30, 2006
Magistrate Judge Gold rules on wiretapping issue.
May 30, 2006
Magistrate Judge Gold rules on wiretapping issue.

Magistrate Judge Gold ordered all defendants, witnesses, and government attorneys involved in the case to admit or deny whether they are "aware of any monitoring or surveillance of communications" between CCR attorneys and their clients.

The United States objects to Magistrate Judge Gold's order before the District Court.

Parties briefed the surveillance issue before Judge Gleeson. On October 3, 2006, Judge Gleeson upheld Judge Gold's order regarding surveillance. Judge Gleeson gave the United States a limited period of time to provide the court with an in camera assurance that no intercepted communications were being used in the case.

Spring 2006
CCR demands to know whether their communications with Turkmen plaintiffs are the subject of warrantless wiretapping by the U.S. government and defendants.
Spring 2006
CCR demands to know whether their communications with Turkmen plaintiffs are the subject of warrantless wiretapping by the U.S. government and defendants.
In response to revelations about the Bush administration's warrantless domestic spying program, CCR demanded to know whether communications between CCR and the Turkmen plaintiffs were being intercepted and revealed to government attorneys or defendants. The United States government vigorously fought to avoid stating whether or not it had access to surveillance of CCR attorneys in the case.
February 2006
Four of the plaintiffs in the Turkmen case were paroled into the United States to have their depositions taken.
February 2006
Four of the plaintiffs in the Turkmen case were paroled into the United States to have their depositions taken.
Non-citizens barred from re-entering the United States have never before been allowed to enter our country for the purpose of pursuing a civil case. The United States would only allow their return on the condition that the plaintiffs remained in the custody of the United States Marshall Service for the entirety of their stay. They were not permitted to leave their hotel, nor contact their families or friends at home or in the United States. The plaintiffs accepted these onerous conditions in order to better present their testimony.
December 3, 2004
District Court Judge Denies MDC Wardens' Motions to Dismiss the Case
December 3, 2004
District Court Judge Denies MDC Wardens' Motions to Dismiss the Case
Judge Gleeson denied the MDC Wardens' motions to dismiss the Third Amended Complaint. Motions by the higher-level defendants would remain pending for quite some time.
November 9,2004
Discovery commenced
November 9,2004
Discovery commenced
Despite the pending motions to dismiss, Judge Gleeson allowed Plaintiffs to begin discovery against the United States and MDC Defendants on their excessive force and conditions of confinement claims and Magistrate Judge Pollack issued a discovery schedule.
September 13, 2004
Third Amended Complaint filed.
September 13, 2004
Third Amended Complaint filed.

Plaintiffs fought to get discovery into the names of the officers described in the second OIG report, and used this to write a third amended complaint, which named as defendants 28 MDC employees, included wardens, lieutenants, correctional officers, and counselors. The new complaint also added an eighth plaintiff, and several Federal Tort Claims Act claims against the United States. The parties engaged in extended briefing over the defendants' motion to dismiss the Third Amended Complaint on qualified immunity grounds, as well as for lack of standing and jurisdiction. Defendants also challenged plaintiffs' international law claims.

September 4, 2004
Elmaghraby Plaintiffs Intervene in the Case
September 4, 2004
Elmaghraby Plaintiffs Intervene in the Case
Two 9/11 detainees, Ehab Elmaghraby and Javaid Iqbal, who had brought their own challenge to the detention at MDC, were granted leave to intervene in Turkmen. Subsequent to this order, Elmaghraby and Turkmen were consolidated for discovery purposes. The Elmaghraby case later became Iqbal v. Ashcroft, which ultimately resulted in a very important 2009 Supreme Court decision on pleading standards.
December 2003
A second OIG report was released.
December 2003
A second OIG report was released.
This second OIG report documented in graphic detail the physical and verbal abuse that detainees held at the MDC suffered at the hands of MDC officials and the inhuman conditions in which they were confined.
June 18, 2003
Second Amended Complaint filed.
June 18, 2003
Second Amended Complaint filed.
Plaintiffs sought and received permission to file a second amended complaint adding several new claims based on information made available by the OIG report. Defendants filed a supplemental motion to dismiss the new claims. Plaintiffs opposed, and a second round of briefing was completed in July 2003.
April 2003
The first DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report was released.
April 2003
The first DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report was released.

The first Department of Justice Office of Inspector General (OIG) report is released, describing the government's secret round up of more than 700 Muslim and Arab non-citizens after 9/11 on the pretext of immigration violations. It described the government’s application of a blanket policy of denying them release on bond, even when the government lacked evidence that they posed a danger or a flight risk, and of the blanket policy of continuing to hold them for criminal investigatory purposes even after they could have been deported.

August 2002
Defendants moved to dismiss the case on qualified immunity grounds.
August 2002
Defendants moved to dismiss the case on qualified immunity grounds.
Briefing on defendant's motion was completed in late 2002 and CCR Legal Director, Bill Goodman argued the motion on December 19, 2002, before Judge Gleeson.
April 2002
Turkmen v. Ashcroft was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
April 2002
Turkmen v. Ashcroft was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Turkmen was first filed on behalf of three named plaintiffs, Ibrahim Turkmen, Asif-Ur-Rehman Saffi, and Syed Amjad Ali Jaffri, while hundreds of 9/11 detainees remained in custody. An amended complaint was filed on July 27, 2002, adding four additional plaintiffs and several new claims.