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U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court to Decide Ashcroft Immunity in Suit by Detained Football Player

Posted Oct 18, 2010 9:41 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether former Attorney General John Ashcroft has immunity in a civil suit by a Muslim citizen who says he was unconstitutionally held as a material witness in a terrorism probe.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to decide the issue in a suit by Abdullah al-Kidd, who claims he was strip-searched, shackled and detained with hardened criminals during the 16 days he was held, Bloomberg reports. Al-Kidd’s lawyers maintain the case “involves a gross abuse of the government’s narrow power” under the material witness law.

Al-Kidd was a former star running back at the University of Idaho, the New York Times reports. He was arrested at the airport as he was preparing to board a plane for Saudi Arabia, where he planned to attend graduate school in Islamic studies.

“I was made to sit in a small cell for hours and hours and hours, buck naked,” al-Kidd said in a 2004 interview cited by the Times. “I was treated worse than murderers.”

SCOTUSblog and the Associated Press also have stories.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had held that neither qualified nor absolute immunity protected Ashcroft in the suit. The case is Ashcroft v. Al-Kidd.

The Supreme Court ruled in Ashcroft’s favor in a similar case last year, finding that a Pakistani cable installer’s claims about bias that motivated his detention couldn’t go forward because the allegations weren’t specific enough.

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