A federal appeals court today revived a lawsuit brought by an Egyptian student detained as a material witness after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, but the court withdrew its opinion within hours after releasing it.
A three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Abdullah Higazy could proceed with his lawsuit against an FBI agent who allegedly coerced Mr. Higazy into admitting that he had an aviation radio in his room at the Millennium Hotel at the World Trade Center on the morning of the attacks.
Mr. Higazy claims that he falsely admitted to owning the radio after the FBI agent, Michael Templeton, threatened to subject Mr. Higazyıs family to harassment by Egyptian security officials.
An airline pilot staying at the same hotel subsequently turned up to claim the radio, but Mr. Higazy spent 34 days in jail before the matter was resolved. He was initially held as a material witness but was later charged with making a false statement to investigators.
In 2004, a district court judge dismissed most of Mr. Higazyıs lawsuit, though he allowed it to proceed against a hotel security guard. The guard and his employer later settled that aspect of the case.
Judge Rosemary Pooler wrote today that one of the Egyptian student's claims against Mr. Templeton over the allegedly coerced confession should not have been dismissed. "An officer in Templeton's shoes would have understood that the confession he allegedly coerced from Higazy would have been used in a criminal case against Higazy and that his actions therefore violated Higazy's Constitutional right to be free from compelled self-incrimination," Judge Pooler wrote in an opinion joined by Judge John Koeltl.
Judge Dennis Jacobs wrote a separate opinion which reached a similar result, but emphasized that the case turned not on whether the confession was coerced, but on indications that Mr. Templeton may have misled a defense attorney about what transpired.
A source close to the case said the opinion was withdrawn because of concerns that it disclosed information that was sealed by the district court on the grounds that it could jeopardize the safety of certain individuals.
The ruling is expected to be re-filed shortly, but the original decision is still posted on a popular legal blog, How Appealing.