NRI, Canadian Akhil Sachdeva
wants apology from US Govt. for unlawfully detained in Jail
Toronto, April 18, 2006
NRI, Akhil Sachdeva, 33, Canadian Citizen is one of seven men named
in a class-action U.S. federal lawsuit against senior U.S. officials,
including FBI Director Robert Mueller and former Attorney General
John Ashcroft. Hundreds of mostly Muslim men detained in New York
and New Jersey after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were
jailed under harsh conditions and terrorized by snarling dogs.
After 9/11, over half of the 762 people (mostly Muslim) rounded
up by the government were held in the Passaic County Jail. Two men
who were held there for months before being cleared of ties to terrorism
- Ibrahim Turkmen and Akhil Sachdeva (who is actually Hindu), are
plaintiffs in a lawsuit charging that "the detainees' confinement
was arbitrary, illegally based on their religion or national origin,
and that guards routinely terrorized them with aggressive dogs."
Two or three times a week, they said, often around 3 a.m. when the
detainees were fast asleep in dormitory cells housing about 50 men,
the electronic doors would open and 10 to 20 officers would rush
in with four to six unmuzzled, barking dogs on leashes. The dogs,
mostly German shepherds, would strain to within inches of the detainees'
faces, they said.
"The guards would barely be able to hold the dogs back,"
said Mr. Turkmen..."The day of judgment would begin for me
that's what it would feel like."
Mr. Sachdeva said that he found himself trembling uncontrollably,
and that some detainees started to cry. "The guards who were
holding the dogs used to always laugh," he recalled. "There
were like four or five dogs, barking, terrorizing, and the officers
shouting: 'Get up! Raise your hands! Against the wall!' One time
the dog was so close his tongue touched me."
an expert in prison law, said in an interview on Friday that the
use of the dogs to frighten detainees in the New Jersey jail underscored
"the trickle-down effect" of the disregard for immigrants'
civil rights that top government officials showed after 9/11. "It
trickled down through military intelligence, through low-level personnel
and to sheriffs," he said. "Suddenly people who were predisposed
to the use of such harsh measures thought they had license to use
them, and 9/11 gave them a great appetite."
They approved these techniques for use in the "war on terror",
and now they've seeped all the way into our county jail system.
Is there anything at all they could possibly do to fuck things up
NRI wants US to apologise
Posted online: Tuesday, April 18, 2006 at 1423 hours IST
TORONTO, APRIL 18, 2006
: Akhil Sachdeva, an accountant from India, who immigrated to Canada,
still wonders why he was seized at gunpoint by US agents and held
for months with hundreds of foreigners in the months following the
9/11 terror attacks.
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, he said in an interview
with the Associated Press.
The 33-year-old is among hundreds of other foreign detainees, who
have sued US officials contending they were mistreated and terrorized
by snarling dogs during four months at the Passaic County Jail in
"Maybe because of my skin colour? I am an Indian and I look
like any person from Pakistan or an Arab country," Sachdeva
said in an interview after completing depositions in Toronto taken
by lawyers representing the US government in the suit.
Sachdeva, now a Canadian citizen, is seeking undisclosed financial
compensation for his ordeal by joining the federal class-action
lawsuit filed in New York against senior US officials, including
FBI director Robert Mueller and former attorney general John Ashcroft.
"First of all, I want an apology," Sachdeva said by telephone
from his home in Brampton, Ontario. "One day I have everything,
the next day they destroyed my life and I was not even charged for
anything - had done no crime. I understand that there was a need
of national security then, but how can they treat people that way?"
Charles Miller, a Justice Department Spokesman, declined comment
on the lawsuit, as did Dean Boyd, a spokesman for immigration and
customs enforcement in Washington.
Filed by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights on
behalf of nearly 800, mostly Muslim and Arab immigrants, the lawsuit
alleges federal agents violated the men's rights by jailing them
on the basis of nationality and religion.
They were secretly put in high-security cell blocks normally reserved
for dangerous criminals until most of them, including Sachdeva,
were cleared of terrorist connections and released.
Sachdeva said he went to New York in early October 2001 to finalize
his divorce from his wife, an American who owns a gas station in
Port Washington, New York. He said his ex-wife told him an FBI agent
had come by and had questions about a Muslim employee of the gas
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.
Eleven days later, Sachdeva said, 30 or 40 armed agents barged
into the uncle's home, where he was staying before going back to
Canada 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.
They asked him if he had ever taken flight training or used a flight
simulator. He told them no. He said they also asked if he was a
practicing Hindu and what he thought about the people behind the
Sept 11 attacks.
Sachdeva thinks it was just after midnight, when he was driven
in a police van to the Passaic County Jail, where he was strip-searched
and put in a cell with dozens of inmates. He said that for the first
week, he was forced to sleep on the cold floor and given no toothbrush.
He and the other seven men named in the lawsuit say their biggest
fear came from guards, who threatened them and the police dogs that
were routinely paraded.
"We never knew. Sometimes you're sitting in a cell and 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." Other
inmates called them terrorists, and one punched him in the face
and chipped a front tooth, he said.
The Passaic County sheriff's department, which runs the jail, calls
the lawsuit unjustified and says dogs are used only to sniff out
contraband or maintain security.
On Dec 27, 2001, Sachdeva received a notice to appear at an immigration
court in New Jersey. He conceded he had overstayed his us visa and
the judge told him that he would be deported to Canada or India
within 30 days for the civil immigration violation.
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. He got his
passport back, but has not seen his Canadian driver's license and
medical insurance card.
James Margolin, a special agent with the FBI in New York, said
he could not say much about the case, but challenged Sachdeva's
account of being mistreated by FBI agents.