It was there that guards allegedly beat him, kept him from his lawyer, and humiliated him by shoving a flashlight and pencil up his rectum, according to the Egyptian immigrant's lawsuit against the federal government.
Elmaghraby, 37, and another Middle Eastern immigrant detained in 2001 during an anti-terror sweep filed the suit Monday in federal court in Brooklyn.
It charges that prison officials and the U.S. attorney general violated their constitutional rights by imprisoning each of them for the better part of a year in the high-security wing of the Metropolitan Detention Center, which was cited by the U.S. Justice Department last year for widespread abuse of detainees.
Bureau of Prisons spokesman Dan Dunne would not comment directly on the suit, but said the bureau investigates all misconduct allegations.
Javaid Iqbal, 37, a Long Island resident from Pakistan, and Elmaghraby, who owned a Manhattan restaurant and weekend flea market stand at Aqueduct Raceway, were deported to their homelands after pleading guilty to federal charges unrelated to terrorism and serving prison terms, The New York Times reported.
Elmaghraby pleaded guilty to credit card fraud and Iqbal to having false papers and checks, the paper said.. They told The Times that they did so only to escape the abuse.
Their lawsuit, prepared by the law firm of Koob & Magoolaghan and the Urban Justice Center advocacy group, alleges the government had no evidence either man was involved in terrorism, and classified them as "high interest" solely because they are Muslim immigrants.
After he was arrested on Sept. 30 in Maspeth, Elmaghraby spent 11 months confined to a tiny cell at the Brooklyn detention center, where he was physically abused, denied basic medical care, and regularly ridiculed by prison staff, the lawsuit states.
On his first day in the prison, guards allegedly dragged him on the ground while he was chained and shackled, cutting his legs; beat him up in an elevator and gave him a nose bleed; and called him "a terrorist and a killer" and a "Muslim bastard," the lawsuit says.
"There was no legal justification for the assaults and verbal abuse suffered by Mr. Elmaghraby," the suit says.
On Dec. 1, the suit says Elmaghraby fell on his face after a guard pushed him from behind, breaking his teeth. A prison doctor gave him antibiotics, but another guard confiscated them and asked him why he needed his teeth, the suit contends. The same medic misdiagnosed him with asthma, prescribing him with medication that exacerbated his actual hyperthyroid condition, according to the suit.
It says that Elmaghraby still endures physical and emotional distress.
Iqbal, who worked as a cable repair man and lived on Long Island, charges in the suit that he underwent similar treatment during his nine-month incarceration.
Both men endured countless and unnecessary naked body-cavity searches, the suit says. Elmaghraby maintains he was given a body-cavity and strip search three times before every court appearance. Once, the suit alleges he was paraded before female prison official. During another search, a guard stuck a flashlight up his rectum. When it was removed, it had blood on it, the suit says.
Both men were denied access to their lawyers, who were sometimes turned away or made to wait for hours during visits, the suit says.
The suit names U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, detention center Warden Michael Zenk, and 13 federal corrections officers and one prison physician.
It charges that the defendants violated their constitutional rights guaranteeing freedom of religion as well as protection against cruel and unusual punishment and unreasonable search and seizure.
Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@times
©2004 Community News Group
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