Indo-Canadian Akhil Sachdeva, an accountant originally from Delhi, is suing the U.S. government for his shabby treatment in the aftermath of 9/11. But does he have a case?
Chaining him to a bench at the FBI’s Manhattan office on Dec. 20, 2001, federal agents demanded to know his religious and political beliefs, asked whether he had taken flying lessons and sought his personal views about the suicide hijackers…
… 30 or 40 armed agents barged into the uncle’s home where he was staying and took him away. At the FBI’s offices, they shackled his legs to a steel bench and interrogated him for four to five hours, never offering him a call to his family or lawyer, he said…
Sachdeva said he was later taken to the Passaic County Jail, where he was strip-searched and put in a cell with dozens of inmates… He and the other seven plaintiffs say their biggest fear came from guards who threatened them and the police dogs that were routinely paraded. “… suddenly there are eight or 10 officers holding dogs, then they took us in small corridors and pushed us against the walls, and the dogs were two inches away,” Sachdeva said. “They started barking and it was so terrifying.”‘They… pushed us against the walls, and the dogs were two inches away’
Other inmates called them terrorists, and one punched him in the face…
“One day I have everything, the next day they destroyed my life and I was not even charged for anything… I had done no crime… how can they treat people that way?” [Link]
His ex-wife’s involvement makes me wonder whether she was using an accusation of terrorism for some score-settling at the hands of the U.S. government, like some have done in Afghanistan:
He said his ex-wife told him an FBI agent had come by with questions about a Muslim employee of the gas station… She asked him to speak to the agent, Sachdeva said, and he went to the FBI office on Dec. 9, 2001, where he was politely questioned by two agents. He said he told them he was planning to return to Canada and they told him that was fine. [Link]
I’m not a lawyer, but it doesn’t seem like Sachdev has a case on the detention alone. He had overstayed his 30-day tourist visa, which gives law enforcement wide latitude on detention. Though he wasn’t offered a lawyer, he was detained just three months after 9/11. The case seems stronger when it comes to illegal detention practices, such as being threatened by dogs. None of this means Sachdev was treated fairly, but it does mean his case might be weak.
On Dec. 27, 2001, Sachdeva received a notice to appear at an immigration court in Newark, N.J. He conceded he had overstayed his U.S. visa and the judge told him that he would be deported to Canada or India within 30 days.
But he remained jailed for 3 1/2 more months before being released on April 17, 2002. He was driven straight to an airport and, in handcuffs, put on a flight to Toronto, with no money. [Link]
Unilike Sachdeva, who is Hindu, most of the detainees in this suit were Muslim and, of course, devoid of links to terrorism. As usual, the government is denying any mistreatment.