(WASHINGTON) -- Abdullah Al-Kidd, a U.S. citizen and former football star at the University of Idaho, was arrested by the FBI nearly eight years ago and held for 15 days because of his connections to a suspected terrorist.
Al-Kidd was never charged with a crime, arguing now that he was improperly detained and should be able to sue former Attorney General John Ashcroft, which the U.S. Supreme Court will take up Wednesday.
Like many people after the attacks of 9-11, Al-Kidd was held under the material witness statute that allows law enforcement to detain individuals if their testimony might be material to an ongoing criminal proceeding.
However, Al-Kidd, 37, alleges Ashcroft stretched the material witness law and used it not to detain witnesses for testimony but to hold them without probable cause as terrorism suspects.
A lower court ruled that the case could go forward because Ashcroft, as a former government official, does not have immunity against such suits. The Supreme Court will review the ruling Wednesday.
In court papers, Ashcroft -- who, as a former government official, is being represented by the Obama Administration -- argues that a federal magistrate issued a warrant for Al-Kidd's arrest under the material witness statute because of Al-Kidd's ties to Sami Omar Al-Hussayen.
Al-Hussayen, a citizen of Saudi Arabia, was at the time being investigated for false statement and visa fraud offenses. Ashcroft argues that the FBI moved to detain Al-Kidd after learning he had immediate plans to fly to Saudi Arabia.
But Al-Kidd, a Muslim who is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, said he was going to Saudi Arabia to study, and that his only connection to Al-Hussayen was a charitable organization where they both worked.
He says that when held for his potential testimony against Al-Hussayen, he was confined to a high security wing, strip-searched, and routinely shackled. Al-Kid's attorneys claims that Ashcroft improperly instituted a nationwide policy regarding the material witness statute, using it as a pretext to detain terrorism suspects for investigative purposes.
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