Citizen Held After 9/11 Wins Right to Be Tried

A federal judge in Idaho has ruled that the United States, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, wrongly imprisoned an American under a law designed to keep trial witnesses from fleeing and that since there was evidence that the government may have willfully misused the law against him, his case should go to trial.

Judge Edward J. Lodge, who was appointed by President George Bush, issued his rulings late on Thursday in the longstanding case of Abdullah al-Kidd, an American who was seized at an airport in 2003, imprisoned for 16 days, repeatedly strip-searched and left naked in his cell. The Justice Department had sought to have his trial request summarily dismissed and denied having misused the law in detaining him.

Mr. Kidd’s lawyer, Lee Gelernt of the American Civil Liberties Union, welcomed the ruling, saying, “It will finally put the government on trial for its post-Sept. 11 practices.”

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment. The department could appeal the decision or seek a settlement with Mr. Kidd.

Judge Lodge’s ruling affirms a June decision by United States Magistrate Mikel Williams that stated: “The circumstantial evidence supports the inference that al-Kidd may have been detained for reasons in addition to securing his testimony at trial.”

Magistrate Williams, who granted the Federal Bureau of Investigation the warrant to arrest Mr. Kidd while he was at Dulles Airport outside Washington on his way to Saudi Arabia in 2003, also said that the information given to him to justify the arrest was misleading. He was told that Mr. Kidd had a first-class one-way ticket and had received more than $20,000 from Mr. Hussayen. In fact, Mr. Kidd had an economy-class round-trip ticket, and the payment was salary for work he had done for Mr. Hussayen’s company.

In addition, the F.B.I. agent failed to mention that Mr. Kidd was a citizen, born and raised here, that his wife and son and many family members were in the United States and that he had never failed to cooperate with the F.B.I. Mr. Kidd was on his way to Saudi Arabia to work on his doctorate in Islamic studies, not to escape trial testimony.