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Ahmer Abbasi speaks softly as he describes the strip searches, the extra shoves, the curses that he endured in a federal jail in Brooklyn following the Sept. 11 attacks.

"I don't think I deserved it," Abbasi said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press from his home in Karachi, Pakistan.

Abbasi's quiet, matter-of-fact tone belies his determination, even after 15 years, to seek justice in American courts — provided the Supreme Court will let him.

The justices on Wednesday are hearing an appeal from former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former FBI Director Robert Mueller and other former U.S. officials that seeks to shut down the lawsuit that human rights lawyers have filed on behalf of Abbasi and others over their harsh treatment and prolonged detention.

"Somebody has to be accountable, somebody has to be responsible," said Abbasi, 42, who works in real estate in Pakistan.

The former officials, including the top immigration enforcement officer and the warden and deputy warden at the New York City jail, say it should not be them.

"Senior government officials should not be regularly second-guessed by lawsuits seeking money damages from them in their personal capacity," said Richard Samp, chief counsel at the Washington Legal Foundation and author of a brief from four former attorneys general.

Abbasi was among more than 80 men who were picked up in the days and weeks following Sept. 11 on immigration violations. Until then, he said he had been "living the American dream" since coming from Pakistan in 1993. He was living in Jersey City, New Jersey, across the river from Manhattan and driving a taxi in New York.

He acknowledges he remained in the United States after he should have left and that he entered into a fraudulent marriage so he could get a coveted "green card" that would allow him to stay in the U.S. legally. He might never have been caught except for the terrorist attacks and the aggressive response of officials who wanted to be sure there would be no follow-on strikes.


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