Locked up 5 yrs, never charged

Summary-- this Algerian guy who was trying to leave the US and get political asylum in Canada just before 9/11 was locked up by the US for almost FIVE YEARS, even after he was completely and totally cleared of any suspicion of terrorist activity. Even AFTER a judge tossed out the case against him, he was held for two more years. This kind of thing is why I'm a card-carrying member of the ACLU. If you don't want this to happen to more people, think about joining the ACLU yourself.

9/11 Detainee Released After Nearly Five Years

TORONTO (Aug. 13) - The date was Sept. 12, 2001, but Benemar "Ben" Benatta was clueless about the death and destruction one day earlier.

About a week before, Canadian officials had stopped Benatta as he entered the country from Buffalo to seek political asylum. On that Sept. 11, he was quietly transferred to a U.S. immigration lockup where a day passed before sullen FBI agents told him what the rest of the world already knew: terrorists had attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

It slowly dawned on Benatta that his pedigree - a Muslim man with a military background - made him a target in the frenzied national dragnet that soon followed. The FBI didn't accuse him of being a terrorist, at least not outright. But agents kept asking if he could fly an airplane.

He told them he couldn't. It made no difference.

"They gave me a feeling that I was Suspect No. 1," he said in a recent interview.

The veiled accusations and vehement denials would continue for nearly five years - despite official findings in 2001 that he had no terrorist links and in 2003 that authorities had violated his rights by colluding to keep him in custody.

Of the estimated 1,200 mostly Arab and Muslim men detained nationwide as potential suspects or witnesses in the Sept. 11 investigation, Benatta would earn a dubious distinction: Human rights groups say the former Algerian air force lieutenant was locked up the longest.

His Kafkaesque journey through the American justice system concluded July 20 when a deal was finalized for his return to Canada. In the words of his lawyer, the idea was to "turn back the clock" to when he first crossed the border.

But time did not stand still for Benatta: The clock ran for 1,780 days. The man detained at 27 was now 32.

"I say to myself from time to time, maybe what happened ... it was some kind of dream," he said. "I never believed things like that could happen in the United States."

In a nation reeling from unthinkable horrors inflicted by an unconventional enemy, it could. And did.

Sporting a gray T-shirt and cargo shorts on a sizzling summer day, Benatta eased his muscular frame into a white plastic chair in the backyard of a Toronto halfway house for immigrant asylum-seekers. He sipped lemonade, then paused to taste freedom.


But as a judge eventually pointed out, something else was amiss: Benatta was never charged with a crime.

The FBI grillings stopped sometime in November 2001, when an internal report was prepared saying he was cleared. On paper, he was no longer a terror suspect.

No one bothered to tell him.

December turned to March with Benatta still under lockdown in Brooklyn, without any contact with the outside world. "Each day, with that kind of conditions, is like a year," he said.

Finally, in April, he received word that he would be transferred to Buffalo to face federal charges of carrying a phony ID when first detained. Benatta was denied bail while he fought the case. But for the first time he was allowed into the general population of federal defendants housed at an immigration detention center.

He also had access to the news, and was shocked by the images accompanying anniversary stories about the Sept. 11 attacks.

"It was the first time I'd really seen what happened," he said.

It wasn't until the second anniversary of the attacks that U.S. Magistrate H. Kenneth Schroeder Jr., in a bluntly worded ruling, found that Benatta's detainment for a deportation hearing was "a charade."

Though terrible, the Sept. 11 attacks "do not constitute an acceptable basis for abandoning our constitutional principles and rule of law by adopting an 'end justifies the means' philosophy," Schroeder wrote. Based on that decision, another judge tossed out the case on Oct. 3, 2003.


"That gave me so much hope," Benatta said. "For me, it's like (the judge) had so much nerves. He gave me some kind of hope in the judicial system all over again."

His hopes were dashed by an ensuing standoff: Benatta demanded asylum. Immigration authorities wanted him deported for overstaying his visa.

An immigration court first set bail at $25,000, then ruled he should stay behind bars indefinitely - a situation a United Nations human rights group decried as a "de facto prison sentence." Most asylum seekers are released pending the outcome of their cases.

It took another two years before a Manhattan attorney, Catherine M. Amirfar, found a solution: She convinced Canadian authorities to let her client apply for asylum there without jailing him.

"Canada was willing to take him back and turn back the clock five years," she said. "Of course, Benemar will never get those five years back."

The last detainee was deported in his prison smock without an apology. He remembers cold stares when he ate his first meal at Wendy's and went to a mall to buy clothes.

Today, there's no more soul-numbing confinement. But he's still caught in waiting game, this time to see whether Canada will grant him asylum - a decision at least six months away. He also wonders if he can regain enough spirit to start a new life.

"Now I'm not the same person," he said. "When I came to the United States, I was optimistic. I had so much energy. That's not the case now."

shit, he's lucky we let him live.

That's how Bush does things.

I hope that dude finds grounds to sue and wins a fortune, he deserves it.

"I support ACLU 90% of the time.... but as for Pedophile's rights ? No fucking way."

Thank you for making it so painfully clear you are an idiot. I wish most morons started their OG careers with that kind of consideration for the rest of us.

ttt for the ACLU, an organization of true freedom lovers.


He tried to leave it, so we tossed him in jail for 5 years.

The article failed to show any evidence showing he was detained in relation to the 9/11 terror attacks.

The entire article is written in what appears to be a propaganda piece.

He was arrested for immigration violations. He was then cleared by the FBI for being a terrorist, but was not told this. Why? BECAUSE HE WASN'T ARRESTED FOR BEING A TERRORIST.

The FBI has to investigate the possibility of him being a terrorist because of his initial purpose here alone (which the article above did not state).

A foreign detainee/pisoner cannot be deported without assuring a safe return to his country - in this case Algeria. Neither the USA or Canada accepted this man trying to flee Algeria and gain asylum and thus he was detained. His own words state that he was trying to avoid returning to Algeria where he would be killed.

You can't release a man who is here illegally who is begging for asylum in Canada which was denying him a temporary resident permit. As soon as Canada issued him that permit, he was released.

Muslim guy carrying a fake ID=I don't give a shit how long he's locked up.

That's like being a frat guy caught carrying Roofies and saying, "What, rape? Me?