By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON, June 19 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to former President George W. Bush’s attorney general, FBI chief and others, ruling they cannot be sued over the treatment of detainees, mainly Muslims, rounded up in New York after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The justices, in a 4-2 decision, reversed a lower court’s decision that said the long-running suit brought by the detainees could proceed against former Attorney General John Ashcroft and former FBI Director Robert Mueller. Mueller is now the special counsel investigating possible collusion between Russia and President Donald Trump’s campaign team in the 2016 U.S. presidential race.
Three of the justices did not participate in the ruling.
The civil rights lawsuit sought to hold the former officials responsible for racial and religious profiling and abuse in detention that the plaintiffs said they endured after being swept up following the 2001 attacks by al Qaeda Islamic militants on the United States.
The suit was filed by a group of Muslim, Arab and South Asian non-U.S. citizens who, their lawyers said, were held as terrorism suspects based on their race, religion, ethnicity and immigration status and abused in detention before being deported.
They were charged with only civil immigration violations. But the plaintiffs said they were subjected at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center to 23-hours-a-day solitary confinement, strip searches, sleep deprivation, beatings and other abuses and denied the ability to practice their religion.
They said their rights under the U.S. Constitution to due process and equal protection under the law were violated.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)