« Press conference analysis | Main | Two marines to face Haditha trial »

Lawsuit reinstated for man wrongly suspected in Sept. 11 attacks

According to The Associated Press, a federal appeals court in Manhattan reinstated a lawsuit against the F.B.I. on Thursday that was brought five years ago by an Egyptian student wrongly suspected of assisting the hijackers from the Sept. 11 attacks.
The ruling, by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, overturned a lower court’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit by the student, Abdallah Higazy.
Higazy was detained for 34 days shortly after the terrorist attack, suspected of aiding the hijackers with a sophisticated aviation radio in his hotel room.
According to Higazy, an F.B.I agent coerced him into saying that the radio, which a security guard at the Millenium Hilton Hotel had said was in his room, was his when it was not during an interrogation.
Higazy came to New York from Cairo in August 2001 to study computer engineering at the Polytechnic University in Brooklyn. The son of a former Egyptian diplomat, he was sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development, which put him up in a 51st-floor corner room of the hotel, across the street from the twin towers.
When the towers were attacked, Higazy fled the hotel along with the other guests, taking only his wallet and the clothing he was wearing.
Three months later, he was arrested by the F.B.I. after he returned to retrieve his belongings. The F.B.I acted on a material witness warrant after the security guard said he had found the radio, capable of communicating with nearby airplanes, in Higazy’s hotel room.
Within days, Higazy was administered a lie-detector test and interrogated by Special Agent Michael Templeton of the F.B.I. According to Higazy, Templeton coerced him into claiming ownership of the radio by making threats against his family in Egypt.
During Higazy’s detention, an American airplane pilot returned to the Hilton to retrieve the radio, which he said he had unintentionally left in his 50th-floor room.
Higazy was released, and the security guard, Ronald Ferry, pleaded guilty to making false statements to the F.B.I. An internal inquiry cleared Agent Templeton and others of any wrongdoing connected to the false confession.
In December 2002, Higazy filed his lawsuit in Federal District Court in Manhattan, claiming that his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination had been violated. The suit was dismissed in a June 2005 decision by Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald.
It its own ruling, the appeals court sent the question of whether Higazy’s Fifth Amendment rights had been violated back to Judge Buchwald for reconsideration and a potential trial.
According to The A.P., the F.B.I. declined to comment.

The Associated Press: