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Government Rounds Up More than 700 Suspected of Having Ties to Hijackers

Aired October 18, 2001 - 16:35   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: The days immediately following the September 11 attacks, the U.S. government rounded up, and we have been hearing about this over the days, more than 700 people, all suspected of have some ties to the hijackers. Many of those people remain in government facilities, their legal status still not known. CNN's Sheilah Kast with the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seventeen days, the worst 17 days of my life.

SHEILAH KAST, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Yazid (ph) al- Salmi spent those days caught up in the terrorism investigation. Randall Hamud is his lawyer.

RANDALL HAMUD, AL-SALMI'S ATTORNEY: He has been in a federal prison, shackled, waist, wrist, and feet and abused by the guards and treated like a criminal and like a terrorist, which he is not.

KAST: Al-Salmi, a 23-year-old Saudi Arabian national, was not charged with a crime. The college student was detained as a material witness and transported to the high-security wing of this building, the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York.

It's believed several hundred men, mostly of Middle Eastern dissent, some U.S. citizens, some non citizens are being held here.

STEVEN SHAPIRO, NATIONAL LEGAL DIRECTOR, ACLU: We have only the slightest idea at this stage of how many people have been arrested, how many are still being held in jail, what they have been charged with, where they are being held, whether they are being given access to family and to lawyers, and whether they are being taken in front of judges.

KAST (on camera): About 150 non-Americans have been arrested because of alleged visa violations. Several hundred more are detained on charges of having violated some other state or local law, or without charges, as material witness, to make sure they will testify before a grand jury.

(voice-over): Hamud alleges frequent verbal abuse by prison guards and he says there is evidence another client, still in custody, suffered physical abuse.

HAMUD: I have observed bruises on his upper body, his upper arm, back of his neck, welts on his wrists and his ankles during the interview. I became very incensed about that because he informed me that bruises were inflicted by the guards.

JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I would be happy to hear from individuals if there are any alleged abuses of individuals because that is not the way we do business.

KAST: The attorney general defended his department's search for those who may have information about the September 11 attacks. Ashcroft said the government is also trying to prevent more attacks.

ASHCROFT: We are aggressive in detaining those who have violated the law, but we will respect the constitutional rights, and we will respect the dignity of individuals.

KAST: Now, safely back home in San Diego, Yazik Al-Salmi finds it hard to understand the way he was treated by the U.S. government.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm innocent. I have nothing to do with what happened.

KAST: Sheilah Kast, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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